Starring: Karuna Bannerjee, Pinaki Sen Gupta, Smaran Ghosal
Director: Satyajit Ray
Running Time: 110 mins
Aparajito is an Indian film and the sequel to Pather Panchali. Having moved to the city for work, Apu’s father becomes unwell, while his mother faces the prospect of living alone as he goes off to start high school.
After the tragedy experienced in the last film. Aparajito sees the family in an entirely new environment, struggling to come to terms with the nature of city life, all the while coming up against more and more major obstacles as their lives continue to change dramatically. Although the film doesn’t quite start off in stunning fashion, it develops into a far more powerful watch than Pather Panchali, with a stunning final act that features the series’ best performance so far, and a further deepening of the saga that is the life of young Apu.
First off, Aparajito doesn’t start off in the best form, with the memory of the tragedy of the end of Pather Panchali still looming large over the family, it struggles to really emulate the grounded emotional drama of the last film as it portrays the grittier world of city living, with little strong character development over the first half hour, with the family feeling a little stuck in the mud as a result of their current situation.
As a result, the film didn’t really grab me until about a third of the way through, when a material change in the family’s life causes a burst of powerful drama that completely alters the entire balance of the series, with the relationship between Apu and his mother coming into focus.
While the first film dealt with the trials of rural life, and the opening act of this film looks at city life, the second and third acts of Aparajito are the strongest of the series so far in my opinion, as the film doubles down and takes a more intimate look at the nature of family and modern life, with strong focus on both Apu and his mother as individuals, as well as the development of their relationship over the course of the boy’s adolescence.
Karuna Bannerjee’s performance through the latter stages of this film is fantastic, maintaining the grounded and engaging acting that made her character so engrossing in the first film, but bringing in a more melancholic and exhausted element that brings the difficulty of her situation to light, as she unwillingly finds herself facing a life alone with her son off at school in the big city.
The final two acts of the film are quieter and slower than any part of the series before, however the intimate focus on just the two characters is what makes it so powerful, and with a touching depiction of adolescence and growing up as we see Apu learn about the world around him, there’s also the heartbreaking nature of watching a loving mother left behind as her son moves on in the world.
It’s reminiscent of the latter stages of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, and the devastating scene in which Patricia Arquette breaks down as her son goes off to university, and Satyajit Ray does an incredible job at making it such a moving and enthralling story to watch, with strong emotional drama that will certainly leave a strong impact to carry on over into the final film of this ever-more engrossing trilogy.
Overall, while Aparajito doesn’t quite get off to the best start possible, it doubles down in its second and third acts with an intimate and moving portrayal of everything that comes with growing up, from the wonder and awe of a young boy discovering the world around him, to the sad and inevitable nature of a mother left behind alone, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.5.