Friday, 8 June 2012

The Apu Trilogy

FB is on a short assignment in India.  While he is away he has left a few posts in the bowling machine summarising some of the things India means to him.  

For a fleeting moment, Fantasy Bob is going to revert to one of his previous enthusiasms.  He is a lapsed film buff.   What does India in the movies mean to him?

India has not been a dominant force in international cinema.  FB acknowledges that Bollywood is a genre in its own right and there must be many fine entertainments within it.  He also accepts that western directors have made compelling films about Indian subjects, Attenborough's Gandhi, David Lean's Passage to India, John Huston's The Man Who Would Be King for example.  The work of Merchant Ivory contains some fine films set in India - Shakespeare Wallah and Heat and Dust in particular.  Slumdog Millionaire had something to say.  And some contemporary films such as Monsoon Wedding by Indian directors have also been big hits in the west.

So there are many representations of Indian subjects, but as far as FB is concerned there is only one Indian director who makes the premier division.  Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy made between 1955-59 is Test Match Quality. The 3 films tell of the the childhood, education and early maturity of a young Bengali named Apu (Apurba Kumar Roy) in the early part of the 20th century.  There are no cricketing scenes or references but FB is sure cricketers will find them compelling.

The first film Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road) is about Apu's early experiences in rural Bengal, as the son of a poor but high caste family. His father Harihar, a Brahmin, has difficulty in supporting his family. After the death of Apu's sister, Durga, the family moves to the holy city of Benares.

In the second film Aparajito (The Unvanquished), the family's finances are still precarious. After his father dies there, Apu and his mother Sarbajaya come back to a village in Bengal. Despite incessant poverty, Apu manages to get formal schooling and turns out to be a brilliant student. The growing Apu comes into conflict with his mother. Later, when his mother dies too, he has to learn to live alone.

In the third film Apur Sansar (The World of Apu), is attempting to become a writer, Apu accidentally finds himself pressured to marry a girl who has rejected her mentally ill bridegroom. Their blossoming marriage ends in her death in childbirth, after which the despairing Apu abandons his child, but eventually returns to accept his responsibilities.

This is real world cinema.  Try it.

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