Apur Panchali (2013)
Subir Banerjee was the child actor who stole hearts around the world as Apu in Pather Panchali, the first of Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy. While the films would go on to receive international acclaim Banerjee disappeared from view, leading a rather normal life away from the world of cinema. Not much material for a biopic one might think yet in focusing on the ordinary, Apur Panchali is deceptively reflective of Ray’s own body of work.
When the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute receives an invitation from Germany for Subir Banerjee, it falls on film student Arka to track him down. Now living in obscurity as he has for much of his life, Banerjee initially wants nothing to do with the award ceremony, having turned his back on cinema a long time ago. Arka persists however, and a bond forms between the two men. Over time Banerjee begins not only revealing his experiences during the making of Pather Panchali, but also the details of his life since its completion.
Writer/director Kaushik Ganguly has spun a hypnotic tale by weaving the threads of Banerjee’s years of obscurity and later rediscovery with restored footage from the Apu trilogy. Abandoning the need to identify and label each change of time and place, scenes are artfully transitioned via a common motif; Banerjee’s eye peering through a locked door becomes Apu’s eye hiding under a sheet; the present day Banerjee applying for a Visa is contrasted with the younger Banerjee visiting his wife in hospital; and images of Apu fetching water are intercut with Banerjee fetching a doctor. The result is a montage of episodes from Banerjee’s life that combine into an intriguing and satisfying whole.
Also of particular note is the disarmingly gentle musical score by Indian composer Indradeep Dasgupta.
Film student Arka is a fictional character.
No scene recreations as biopic uses actual footage from the Apu trilogy.