APARAJITO (The Unvanquished)

(director/writer:Satyajit Ray; screenwriter: based on the novel by Bibhuti Bannerji; cinematographer: Subrata Mita; editor: Dulal Dutta; music: Ravi Shankar; cast: Karuna Banerjee (Sarbajaya, mother), Kanu Bandyopadhyay(Harihar Ray, father),Pinaki Sengupta (Apu-as a boy), Smaran Ghosal (Apu-as an adolescent), Kamala Adhikari (Mokshada), Ramani Sengupta (Bhabataran), Charuprakash Ghosh (Nanda); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: NR; producer; Satyajit Ray: Amazon Video/Criterion Collection; 1956-India-in Bengali with English subtitles-in B/W)

“Affecting middle-part to the Apu trilogy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The unpretentious, sincere and great Indian first-timer filmmaker Satyajit Ray (“Pather Panchali”/”The World of Apu”) is the writer-director of this affecting middle-part to the Apu trilogy. That splendid work was based on a 1934 two-volume novel by Bibhuti Bannerji, a best-seller in India. The novel tells the complete story of Apu’s life from childhood to suffering in poverty as an adolescent to being a father as an adult who loses his son in the last version.

Aparajito covers when Apu (Smaran Ghosal) was 10 and the country boy’s impoverished father (Kanu Bandyopadhyay), a disillusioned lay priest healer, who for a meager living reads scripture, passes away after the death of his young daughter, Apu’s older sister, and after deciding to relocate the family to the sacred bustling city of Benares to escape the poverty of his primitive village.

After his father’s death Apu trains for the priesthood, while his long-suffering traditional mom, a worrier, Sarbajaya (Karuna Banerjee), works as a cook for a wealthy Bengali family. When she also dies, the headstrong Apu now dreams of becoming a writer, and deals with his impoverished life and hard luck in the best way he can before accepting a college scholarship in Calcutta.

The film is a fine example of the neo-realism style. With the attractions of Ravi Shankar’s moving sitar music and Subrata Mitra’s astonishing black-and-white cinematography to give the outstanding film even more heft.

Ray won the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival, and despite his humble beginnings instantly gained recognition as one of the world’s greatest filmmakers.

REVIEWED ON 7/18/2021  GRADE: A +