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SATYAJIT RAY AND THE APU TRILOGY—EXPLORING CULT MOVIES MADE MUCH AHEAD OF THEIR TIME

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

An epiphany of the dilapidating predicaments of the impoverished envisaged and illustrated conspicuously is an astounding caliber to explore. Satyajit Ray has overrun the ubiquitous genres exhibited by the film industry that entail drama and fantasy completely alien to the underprivileged. He has laid a new horizon of neorealism in films in India, which were primarily dominant in Italy. Neo-realistic films overtly expose the devastating distress confronted by the poor and the working class. He experimented in this arena and spearheaded the global recognition of Indian films as an exemplar means to portray the plight of the common man.

Born in 1921, he was an Indian filmmaker, author, essayist, lyricist, magazine editor, illustrator, calligrapher, and music composer. He is a multifaceted personality who has surpassed the early stages of sophistication and reinvigorated the true spirit of filmography through the celluloid. While working as a commercial illustrator in a British-owned advertising agency, he got acquainted with Pather Panchali, a novel written by Bibhuti Bhushan Banerjee, and taking a cue from the Italian neo-realistic movie Bicycle Thieves he augmented his saccharine journey in cinema. And what followed was an undulating voyage of acing new facets. His dynamic exploration of rural India was primarily set in Bengal and has earned accolades from all parts of the world.

Pather Panchali was the first movie in his trilogy christened “the Apu Trilogy”. Set on the outskirts of rural Bengal, it is a story that revolves around Apu, who is a lively boy who constantly had to retrospect his true self. He is very attached to his sister, who met her ends due to a lack of proper health care. In this movie, Ray lays down the financial dilemmas and jarring traumas of the rich and poor divide; how health discrepancies can always take a toll on their lives and their already crippling financial state. Ray successfully portrays a spectrum of nuances of village life, refurbishing the chaos within their lives with minuscule pieces of happiness. The movie concludes with the last shot of Apu and his bereaving family leaving his ancestral home as they consider it to be a bad omen owing to the loss of his aunt and his sister.  

The next in the line is Aparajito, which is an extension of Apu’s poignant tale of loss and pain. Apu with his family moves to Benaras, leaving the melancholic trails of separation from his aunt and sister behind. They molded their future into an exotic entity imbued with sheer jubilation. But fate had something way more different and morbidly alarming in store for them. The impending turn of events deteriorates their lives and pushes them into the clutches of poverty. While looming around this daunting crisis, Apu yearns to be an intellect and strives for an education. The story spirals around the incessant endeavors of Apu who tries to balance his studies and work so that he can augment the wheels of his career. Meanwhile, he unintentionally sidelines his mother and her health only to later repent his actions, as his mother succumbs to her ailments.

The last in this franchise is Apur Sansar which is the tail end of Apu’s appalling and odious world, where Ray finds a novel trope to compliment Apu’s monotonous life. In this film, Apu, out of conscience, accedes to marrying a girl and that further extends to a roller coaster ride of intense romance and mutual understanding. The appalling dismay of Apu, however, has no end this time too. The spiritual liberation felt by him by the embrace of his fraught fatherhood is the conclusion of this lucid saga. The finale episodes showcase the liberation of Apu from his age-old fear of pain and separation.

This trilogy is indeed an epic piece of realism that showcases the plight of ordinary people and adds an aura to these genres. He deliberately exposed the sheer beauty of village life, the advancement of monsoon, the beauty of the ponds, and much more. Ray is much ahead of his time and has attributed a quantum of grace to the film industry lurking in India now.

Nihala Farha KI

Delhi North '24

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