The first part of Satyajit Ray’s acclaimed Apu Trilogy is a lyrical, closely observed story of a peasant family in 1920s rural India.
“Pather Panchali introduced Indian cinema to the West as cataclysmically as Kurosawa’s Rashomon had done for Japanese films. A human document of timeless simplicity and exquisite beauty.”
Ephraim Katz, The Macmillan International Film Encyclopedia, 1998
Bengali film director Satyajit Ray was inspired by the example of Italian neo-realist films such as Bicycle Thieves (1948) to make his own low-budget, open-air drama painting a naturalistic portrait of ordinary lives. Encouraged by Jean Renoir, whom he assisted during the filming of The River (1951), Ray set to work on an adaptation of a 1929 novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay about a young boy growing up in an impoverished rural community.
Like Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zamin (1953), Pather Panchali announced the arrival of a humanistic, Calcutta-centred Indian art cinema, distinct from the commercial product of Bollywood. Among the film’s intensely memorable moments is a scene in which Apu (Subir Banerjee) and his sister run through a paddy field to catch a glimpse of a passing train.
Ray’s trilogy follows Apu as he matures into adulthood and moves to the big city, in Aparajito (1956) and The World of Apu (1959).