A Review of a Timeless Classic

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The famous Train Scene from "Pather Panchali"

Saptarshi reviews the timeless classic Pather Panchali (A song of the road) by the maestro Satyajit Ray based on the 1929 novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay. The film, a landmark in Indian cinema, explores themes of poverty, family, and the passage of time. The writer highlights the memorable scenes, music and the impact the film has had on the world of cinema.

Undoubtedly one of the greatest filmmakers to ever touch the world of filmaking, Satyajit Ray’s magnum opus, “Pather Panchali” is a film that has stood the test of time. An absolute landmark of Indian Cinema, and a masterful work of art, this beautiful film deeply explores the lives of a poor Bengali family, and the themes of poverty, family, and the passage of time. In this film review, notably from the point of view of a mere film admirer and not a critic perse, we will delve into the cinematography, music, performances, and themes of “Pather Panchali”, based on the heart-wrenching book by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay published in 1929.

"Apu" (Subir Banerjee) and his sister "Durga" from the movie "Pather Panchali"
“Apu” (Subir Banerjee) and his sister “Durga” from the movie “Pather Panchali”

The film tells the story of a poor Bengali family through the eyes of a young boy named Apu played by Subir Banerjee, and explores the struggles with utmost honesty and sensitivity, portraying the characters’ resilience in the face of adversity. The thing to be noted and admired here is that Manik Da’s portrayal of poverty is not sensational or melodramatic, but instead is grounded in a deep understanding of the lived experiences of those who are affected by it. The film highlights the moments of joy, and beauty that exist within it, without shying away from the harsh realities of poverty, thus showcasing the skills of Ray as a filmmaker and his empathy as a storyteller. His depiction of family, exploring the relationships between family members, and the bonds that hold them together in the face of hardship. The characters, even the kids, are universal yet complex, each having their story to tell.

Another beautiful aspect to “Pather Panchali” was the use of music in it composed by none other than the young Pandit Ravi Shankar. It adds depth and richness to the film’s visuals and performances, describing the film’s themes and emotions in the most raw yet original way. Also, the film’s editing and pacing are noteworthy, with Ray taking his time to build a rich, detailed world for his characters to inhabit.

Satyajit Ray while making the masterpiece "Pather Panchali"
Satyajit Ray while making the masterpiece “Pather Panchali”

One particularly memorable scene in the film is the family’s trip to a nearby temple festival. Despite their financial condition, they are able to come together and find joy in the festivities, highlighting the beauty that can exist even in the face of hardship. This scene, and several others, serves to reinforce the film’s message that there is beauty and hope in the world, even in the darkest of times. And that is probably why, it is relevant even today in the 3rd decade of the 21st Century.

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Last, but not the least, “Pather Panchali” is a timeless classic that has left a lasting impact on world cinema. From its humble beginnings as a novel by Bibhuti Bhushan Bandyopadhyay, to its masterful adaptation by the visionary filmmaker Satyajit Ray, this story has captivated audiences for generations. Its themes of poverty, family, and the passage of time are universal, and its stunning cinematography and heartfelt performances make it a must-see for anyone interested in the art of filmmaking. “Pather Panchali” is a testament to the power of storytelling and the impact that great art can have on the world, and it will continue to inspire and move audiences for generations to come.

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