(gb) wrote: Apu's Beginning I saw [i]Aparajito[/i] years ago--at the beginning of "D," actually. I'd just gotten the first [i]Great Movies[/i] book, and I backtracked for the ones I missed at that point. I was having issues with Netflix at the time, and I wasn't that far ahead in the alphabet. I'd been doing the project for maybe a year then, maybe a bit longer. I didn't have that much to backtrack for--and I'm not sure why I'd missed the various movies in the first place. It's an interesting thing to consider. I've gone back and read my review of it, and I speculated that perhaps the reason I did not myself particularly consider it a Great Movie, though I certainly didn't think it was a bad one, was that I couldn't really get into Apu's head, particularly. I thought he was foolish, and I thought he was foolish in an inappropriate, unbelievable way. I suspected that seeing this one would let me get into his head better, and I think I was probably right. Harihar Roy (Kanu Banerjee) is a Brahmin whose family has long lived in a small town in India. Unfortunately, in the 1920s, there's not a lot of money in it, and the family does actually need it. His wife, Sarbojaya (Karuna Banerjee), wants him to return to the city and find work, even though they have a young daughter, Durga (Runki Banerjee then Uma Das Gupta), and she is pregnant. The child is a son, Apu (Subir Banerjee). Durga steals fruit from the neighbour's orchard; she shares it with old Indir Thakrun (Chunibala Devi), her great-aunt. Sarbojaya dislikes Indir quite a lot; she resents having to care for her at all. As the children grow older, they also grow closer. Durga takes a certain amount of responsibility for her younger brother, about the only housework she sees much interest in. She also sees it as her duty, I think, to care for Indir, and of course the whole family wants Harihar to come back, or at least send money and word of what he's doing. I must confess that I am not all that fond of Indian cinema. Bollywood pretty well irritates me. I find it amusing in small doses, but the longer the movie goes on, the less amusing I tend to find it. And Bollywood? Goes on for a bit. This movie is only about two hours long, though I will admit that there are no charming but random dance sequences. I can see the influence this had on later Indian film, but this is a lot more linear. This is the childhood of Apu, the first half of the book, written by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, the second half of which we previously saw as [i]Aparajito[/i]. There are only a few characters, and they all follow paths that make sense. This is, of course, extremely different from the more recent Bollywood epics and is much closer to the more "arthouse" Indian films that I do like, such as the films of Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta. I don't think it would have been impossible to get Mira Nair without Satyajit Ray, but it would have been harder. Perhaps the most notable thing about this film is that hardly anyone working on it had any experience. Many of the performers were amateurs; some hadn't worked in film in decades, and some only have the single film credit to their names. Ray had never directed a film before. For all that, there is a joy to the film that underlies even the more depressing bits. Durga dances in the rain at one point, and even though she sang the Indian equivalent of "Rain, rain go away" a few minutes earlier in the film, it's clear that she is enjoying the downpour. They may be poor, and she may miss her father a great deal, but for this moment, she is happy. The actress only ever made the one film. Sometimes, when people get cast in movies look for unknowns, they go on to a quiet career. Sometimes, they get "discovered" and go on to stardom. And sometimes, as with Uma Das Gupta and others, they go on to lives that have nothing to do with film. Cast and crew here seem about equally divided in what happened to them. The name of the film, as Rotten Tomatoes so kindly reminds us, literally translates to "Song of the Little Road." It was filmed for about $3000 (that's just a hair over $25,000 in today's money), and indeed, Ray had a hard time raising the money and had to suspend production for a while. Eventually, the government of the State of West Bengal came to his aid and financed the film so he could finish it. I assume this is because he was, after all, adapting a book by a great Bengali author, though I confess that my sources do not specify. What delights me, however, is not merely that the West Bengali government decided, for whatever reason, that sponsoring a film was a good idea. That does make me happy, because I think a sign of a great government is sponsoring the arts. However, what delights me even more what how the whole thing was listed in the budget. "Pather" means, as you might guess, something along the lines of "path." And in the budget, the money spent on the film was listed as "roads improvement."