Pather Panchali Film Review

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Image drawn by Gabriel Mafra

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Last Thursday, Montgomery College held a screening for Satyajit Ray’s 1955 film Pather Panchali (Song of Little Road).

The screening drew a small audience, 20 people at most, to the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts center. Most of the spectators seemed to be of Southeast Asian descent, most seemingly there to enjoy a film which depicts a story in a setting reminiscent of their upbringing.

With its mesmerizing landscapes and backdrop paired with a heartfelt story about a poor Indian family struggling to survive, Pather Panchali is without a doubt a brilliant film.

One cannot help but fall in love with each of the principal characters. This film portrays characters that are helplessly flawed but authentically human.

It begins with the tough but unyielding bond between Karuna and her stubborn daughter, Durga, a young, petty thief.

The relationship between the children, Durga and Apu is one rooted in love and at times playful rivalry.

At the core is the story of family matriarch, Karuna, trying to do what is best to raise her two children in poverty while her husband, an out of work priest, often leaves their Bengali village to find work.

Throughout the film the family is met with much adversity, but survival and love prevails.

The difference between seeing a major motion film in a theater and seeing one at Montgomery College is the interaction between the viewers themselves.

One gentleman seemed to enjoy the film the most. While for most keeping up with the subtitles was fatiguing, this man was filled with exuberant enjoyment all throughout.

His reactions were almost as good as the film itself.

At the conclusion the old man, in his matching light brown shirt and pant suit, offset by the 3 gold chains he wore around his neck and head covered in wavy white curls, gave a brief understanding of his enjoyment.

Through his charismatic, jubilant accent he simply said, “it is because I was the same way as a little boy and my mother used to say the same things to me.”

The promotional advertisements rightfully portray the film and the festival itself as an opportunity to see Satyajit Ray’s art, but the film also seemed to tug at nostalgic heart strings of the people in the room.

The film was filled with a level of realness which was easy to identify with, which is incredible for a film which is over 60 years old.

Pather Panchali, like all good art, is able to withstand the test of time through its beauty and relevance. The film is sure to draw strong emotion from anyone who watches.