The second part of Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy, focusing on Apu’s relationship with his mother during his adolescence. A wistful, elegaic exploration of the gulf between youthful ambition and family ties and between dreams and reality; a timeless classic that bridges the emotional gulf between India and the west, then and now.
India 1956, 113 Minutes
The second part of Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy finds Apu and his parents living in Benares. Harihar, his father, recites Hindu scriptures for a living; Sarbojaya, his mother, looks after the home. Apu plays with his friends – he’s a child, after all. Life is good. But Harihar dies, and Sarbojaya struggles to support herself and her son. And she does a splendid job, managing to send him to school, where he does well – well enough to be offered the chance of further education in Calcutta. He leaves with hardly a backward glance – he’s a young man, after all. She puts on a brave face, but her heart is breaking – she’s his mother, after all.
It’s one of Ray’s great strengths that, while his films are unmistakably Indian in their setting and culture – in this case with some memorable scenes of the sacred and profane city of Benares – his themes are universal. And it’s a universal truth that neither parents nor children are ours to keep. Our parents grow old, our children grow up: all eventually leave. Any mother will recognise Sarbojaya’s feelings as she secretes little delicacies in Apu’s suitcase, urges him to write often, worries that he might not eat properly. Any teenager will recognise Apu’s excitement at the new life ahead, his fear that his mother might not let him go, and the apparent selfishness with which he grabs his opportunities.
An important theme in Hindu philosophy is the tension between stability and change, between Vishu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. And the overriding theme of Aparajito is that nothing is static. Apu and his mother move from place to place, people around them come and go. They themselves are the only constants, and they are also changing. Every change brings trouble for Sarbojaya, opportunity for Apu. Shiva brings new beginnings as well as destruction; the two are inseparable. Vishnu’s gift is the constancy of her love, the endless chain of mothers and children, and the endless changes that they put each other through.
Harihar: Kanu Bannerjee
Sarbojaya: Karuna Bannerjee
Apu: Smaran Ghosal
Young Apu: Pinaki Sengupta
Producer, Director, Screenplay: Satyajit Ray
Photography: Subatra Mitra
Music: Ravi Shankar