Saturday, October 25, 2014

286. Pather Panchali (1955)

Running Time: 115 minutes
Directed By: Satyajit Ray
Written By: Satyajit Ray, from novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay
Main Cast: Subir Banerjee, Runki Banerjee, Karuna Banerjee, Kanu Banerjee, Chunibala Devi


So here we go with these finally, a trio of movies I've been putting off for far too long. I don't know why I dreaded these films so much (perhaps a passing comment by Ray in the comments section, probably years ago now?), but I have. After watching the first one last night, I can already realize that they were nothing to fret about.

The film is pretty cut & paste type stuff, telling the tale of a very poor family and centering around a young Bengali boy named Apu. In fact, when the film starts Apu is not yet born, as we meet mother Sarbajaya (Karuna Banerjee) & father Harihar (Kanu Banerjee) and their young daughter Durga (Runki Banerjee), probably between nine and eleven years old. We find out soon that mother is very strict, while father is sort of a lovable loser type. When Sarbajaya (as much of a main character as Apu) finds out that Durga has stolen fruit from the trees in their neighbors garden, she is scolded and made to return it and do chores as penance. The family's elderly aunt (known only as "Auntie" and played by Chunibala Devi) encourages Durga to be a child and doesn't mind when the girl steals fruit. Not once, but twice in the course of the movie, Sarbajaya kicks Auntie out of the home (she lives with them) for being to lenient with the children and general disagreements. Later, Apu is born and Durga now has a new running mate. The two are very childlike, playing in the rain, chasing after the sweets seller and running to get a glimpse at a passing train (the film's most famous scene, supposedly). Toward the middle of the film, Harihar leaves his family to try and get work in another village. While he is away, Durga catches cold and develops pneumonia and her illness takes a turn for the worse one stormy night.


Definitely nothing worth dreading here, but as seems to be the trend this season, it's yet another one of those movies that fives me a very *meh* attitude. I'm also left to question, as I have so many times before, what the big hubbub was. Was it merely the story that Satyajit Ray took three years to make the film, as he too came from poor and raising funds to make a movie was harder than it seemed? Or is the film itself? I have a hard time believing it's the latter, as the movie itself just isn't THAT special. It isn't bad, nor is it very good. It very much lingers in that middle ground, somewhere between mediocre and forgettable. The train scene that I'd heard about even before watching the film, was simply a scene where the children run to catch a glimpse at a passing train. I realize that they're poor children, pretty much confined to a single village and that seeing a passing locomotive was a big deal. I guess it was an okay scene, but to get the herald that it does is a little ridiculous, isn't it?

The other thing that keeps me from going gaga about this movie is the fact - and I've said this before - that we have children in the two main leads. I'm very anti-kid if you haven't already noticed and I find it very difficult to be taken away by movies starring kids. That whole "world of imagination" and "age of wonderment" thing just doesn't work on me and I'd much rather watch anything where adults are featured - call me close minded, if you will.

However, the film isn't all bad and actually, it's a perfectly fine film. Everything it does, though basic, is very fine filmmaking, It's just that I wouldn't go so far as to call anything on display here "must see". I can say that once Apu starts to grow up, the movies definitely have a potential to get better and in fact, I'd even go so far as to say I look forward to "The World of Apu". I'm also very much not dreading the watching of "Aparajito", as this movie chugged along quite nicely and the fact that I put these off for so long is already proving to be a pointless task. Pather Panchali has already gotten me somewhat attached to this group of characters and I have to say the death of Durga was a huge shocker, that I DID NOT expect! I'm a little more than slightly intrigued to see where things go from here and I can only hope we get into slightly more edgier territory, although as these were made in 1950s India, I'm guessing "edgy" wasn't the buzzword of the times.

RATING: 5/10  Strike it right down the middle and I'll hope things get progressively better with the Apu Trilogy. Expect the "Aparajito" review tomorrow sometime.


October 25, 2014  6:59pm

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