I am taking a break from the series of famous photographs. Today I am bringing you a leaf or two from my diary. A couple of day or so ago I was discussing with a friend the story and cinematography of Pather Panchali; a brilliant movie by Satyajit Ray. Here I am presenting what I wrote in my diary about the iconic movie after I had watched it for the first time.
Date: 26th July 2005
Last week I went to watch Pather Panchali in the Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival. It was my longtime wish to watch this movie. Directed by Satyajit Ray, the movie has gathered all praise in the international arena and has won a number of awards. Having watched Shatranj Ke Khiladi –another movie directed by Ray; my expectations were anyway high. Pather Panchali is a Bengali movie and the title means “Song of the Little Road”. Made in 1955, the main print of the movie got burnt in 1994 due to an accident. However, the movie has now been fully restored using the latest techniques.
I was accompanied by my colleague Rosemarie. I also asked my friend Deepak if he wanted to join in and he was only happy to oblige. We three reached the Siri Fort Auditorium in Rosemarie’s car full 45 minutes before the showtime.
We were expecting a huge rush of people not only because it’s a famous movie but also because it was the centerpiece of the festival. Therefore, we wanted to be there early to ensure that we get seats. When we reached Sri Fort, Rosemarie spotted two of her friends. We talked a bit and then we all proceeded towards the auditorium. At that time another movie was being shown and the hall was jam packed. Rosemarie and her friends made their way in by scrambling into the little spaces among crowd (and perhaps also by pushing a few people!)
I could not enter in the hall with them because not only the crowd but darkness inside also was making my movement almost impossible. So, I decided to stay out until the movie ends and the crowd comes out with lights switched on. Deepak also stayed outside with me. We wandered around for a while watching an exhibition of posters of the movies. Then we decided to climb up the first floor and see if balcony had some space empty. To our delight, a number of seats were vacant in the balcony. We went in and occupied two seats and watched the on-going movie. It ended in about 15 minutes. I requested Deepak if he could go down and tell Rosemarie that we have got seats in the balcony. Deepak went down and informed Rosemarie and came back. By that time Rajit Kapoor had started to introduce Pather Panchali. The hall was again jam-packed with people who wanted to watch Pather Panchali.
The movie began and credits began rolling with melodious Sitar music in background. There were subtitles in English. The movie opens with a tense (but not heated) argument between Sarbojaya with a lady neighbor. The neighbor was complaining about Sarbojaya’s daughter Durgo. Durgo was about 10 year old and was like any other child –curious, active and naughty. She would pluck guavas from the orchard of the neighboring lady. That is what the lady was complaining about.
Sarbojaya’s husband Hori was a clerk as well as a part time priest. He was a poet and playwright too. However, his income was little and the family made ends meet with much difficulty. The couple lived in a remote village of West Bengal. They had a small and damaged house to call their home. Besides the couple and their daughter Durgo, Hori’s elder sister also lived in the same house. She was an old woman with wrinkled face and buckled mouth with not even a ghost of tooth inside. Her gait and movements were very slow. But the old age had not taken away her desire to enjoy the life. She would support Durgo in stealing guavas from the orchard and then would take her share too! I wonder how she would have eaten a guava with not a single tooth remaining in her jaws. This old aunt brought the angle of humor to the movie.
Soon came a time when Sarbojaya gave birth to a baby boy who was named Apu (pronounced as Opu). Time passed and Apu grew to be 8 years old. By then Durgo had become about 18 years. Adolescence did not touch the child in Durgo at all and her activities remained as nonchalant as they always used to be. In fact, now with Apu there to help her, she had become even more mischievous. Both of them would still steal fruits and make sour chutni secretly and eat it smacking their fingers. The only change that happened in Durgo was that she had become a bit more serious by her looks.
Whenever Durgo and Apu would hear bell from the candy seller out there in the streets –they would run and keep watching him. If Hori was home –Apu would go and ask for money. More often than not he would get a paisa or two and then both, Apu and Durgo, would buy a candy. But Sarbojaya would not give them a single penny for this. In contrast, Hori was not a man who would worry about household problems or the future of his children. He took the days as they come and his motto was “God does everything and He does only the best”. This had made him unconcerned about homely problems. Therefore it was only Sarbojaya who was holding the fort. Her main worries were the marriage of Durgo, dreadful state of the house and a debt of five Rupees taken from relatives. She always pestered Hori to do something about these issues but Hori would not listen believing God will manage all.
Durgo had also started to understand that one day she will have to get married and she would also be burdened with worries of life –just like her mother. One of her friends was getting married and she knew that her own marriage was also not far. When she went to be with her friend during her marriage –Durgo did something which I think is open to everyone’s guess as to why she did it. She stole a necklace made of beads from her friend’s home and when she was asked if she took the necklace –she denied. I think Durgo was not, at all, a thief. She stole fruits –but that’s something most children do if they have an orchard in the neighborhood. She was naughty but not a thief. It was, may be, the fascination of having an ornament that made her steal that necklace for she could not afford to have one of her own.
Anyway, suddenly Hori decided to go to Benaras to find a better job in order to earn more money for the impending expenditure of house repair and Durgo’s marriage. He thought that in the city of Benaras his talent of being a poet and playwright would find some admirers and also there he would get more opportunities to perform pujas as a priest. Hori left home for Benaras with a promise to Sarbojaya that he would regularly write to her and would return as soon as he would have earned enough money.
After sometime, Hori’s postcards started to arrive from Benaras. Apu would bring it from the postman and Sarbojaya would not wait to read what Hori had written. But always Hori would write that he has not been able to find a job and therefore he can’t send money. The worries of Sarbojaya were getting bigger like a swelling river. There was no money left with her as the only bread winner, Hori, was not sending her anything. One day, Sarbojaya checked the pots in kitchen and found no grains left in home. There was nothing in home that she could feed to her children. Her heart wept. She took out a few shiny plates and other utensils from a trunk. These items apparently were heirlooms. She went to a relative’s place and sold all those to get a couple of kilograms of grains. This was all she could do to keep her family alive. Ever increasing pressure made Sarbojaya’s anger like quick silver.
Sarbojaya had always been crossed with the aunt because she did not like aunt’s encouragement to the mischief of Durgo and Apu. Angered with Sarbojaya’s comments, the aunt had left home a number of times –but only to come back soon again. In order to show that she did not think she was wrong, the aunt would move to a nearby relative’s place every time Sarbojaya would get angry on her. But within a day or two the aunt would come back as her heart was with Durgo and Apu.
Sarbojaya would also not resist her comeback in practice –but she would keep saying that the aunt should have stayed where she had gone. It was so humorous (and I felt empathy too) to see the aunt picking up her tattered shawl, a dented metal pot for drinking water and a long thin stick every time she would leave Hori’s house. However, everyone (including the aunt herself) knew that she would be back before long.
Monsoon season arrived. Joy of Durgo and Apu knew no bounds as they bathed in rains and wandered in the fields splashing water from puddles. Well, I felt really amazed at this point of time. It was so fascinating to notice how the same thing may mean different to different people. While monsoon brought a treasure of fresh joy for Durgo and Apu –the same monsoon brought fear to Sarbojaya. Durgo and Apu were elated seeing torrential rains and Sarbojaya was praying that her house survive the pouring water. To be continued tomorrow…