Starring: Ardhendu Banerjee, Parambrata Chatterjee, Parno Mitra
Directed by Kaushik Ganguly
The world knows him as Apu. He is the sprightly, skinny, bright-eyed, shirtless boy from Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, the first of the trilogy based on Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s novels. But few know the name of the child actor who played Apu in Pather Panchali. Even fewer know what happened to him.
His name is Subir Banerjee. Kaushik Ganguly’s Apur Panchali chronicles his life. He was just ten when Ray zeroed in on him. Subir was from a family nearly as impoverished as the fictional one he was about to enter. He recalls that, every so often, Ray—whom he called Kakababu or uncle—would hand his father envelopes containing hundred rupee notes. There are other striking parallels between his life and Apu’s, which Ganguly tries to highlight using techniques inspired by Ray’s work, and tells parts of the story in black-and-white.
The film takes off from a real-life incident. The German government wants to fly Subir to an event where he would be felicitated along with other child actors from classic films like De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves and Spielberg’s ET. Only, they don’t know where he lives. They send the invitation to the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute in Calcutta and Arko, a student, takes up the responsibility of delivering it. Thus began the search for Apu-Subir.
The elderly Subir finds his life disrupted after being largely ignored and having spent a lifetime making his peace—a precarious one—with the ghost of Apu. It’s at once a source of distinction among acquaintances in an otherwise ‘ordinary’ life as well as a source of discomfort—a stark contrast between iconic imagery of childhood and the utter anonymity of life thereafter. One scene shows a film director shooing away Subir, who is a spectator trying to watch a shooting. The shot being taken involves a child actor. Indeed, when approached by Arko, Banerjee stifles his anger and refuses to admit to being ‘Apu’.
Ganguly creates an interesting ‘myth versus reality’ counterpoint between the stories of Apu and the making of the Apu trilogy on the one hand, and the real life of Subir Banerjee on the other. Apur Panchali consciously emulates Ray’s limpid style while detaching itself from the narrative of his legendary life and work, rather showing him from Subir’s perspective, which is sometimes critical and coloured with a sense of hurt and betrayal.
However, the parallels between Subir’s life and that of the fictional Apu extend even to adulthood. It gives Ganguly a free hand at making his own Panchali. Ganguly juxtaposes key events of Subir’s life, like his father’s illness and his wife’s untimely death with uncannily similar events from the trilogy. At times this is predictable. What works better is the more straightforward showcasing of the extraordinary ordinariness of Subir’s life, a stunning reflection of the central idea of Apu the Everyman, as created by Bibhutibhushan and limned by Ray.
Remember that little boy quite well. Fascinating story.
Kaushik Ganguly in his film Apur Panchali chronicling Subir Banerjee's life has actually rediscovered a character under the shade of another character. But there is a surprising resemblance that we find between the two chronicles of lives _ one Apu in Apu's trilogy and another in Subir Banerjee's mediocore Bengali entity. It seems Subir could not subconsciously try to come out of Apu's shadow that enveloped him entirely.In fact, Subir Banerjee is a symbol of every Bengali who never craves for fame and fortune and is satisfied with his minimum requirements. Needless to say, Subirbabu could have got much opportunity to prosper materially in life with his prominant association with the historic film Pather Panchali. But even in this age of electronic media he has preferred to keep himself away from public. Perhaps he has restrained himself lest his reverie surrounding his golden memories should not break.
The film, undoubtedly, will make the Bengali nostalgic.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT