High Museum of Art: Films

Ten Things about Pather Panchali by Linda Dubler
Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray

1.  From 1943 until 1956, when he became a full time filmmaker after the success of Pather Panchali, Ray worked for a British-owned advertising agency, beginning as a “junior visualizer,” and ending as the north Calcutta office’s art director.

2.  Ray met Jean Renoir when the French director was in Calcutta searching for locations and actors for his film The River. As Andrew Robinson recounts in his biography, Satyajit Ray, The Inner Eye, “Satyajit recognized in Renoir a real film artist — the first he had come to know — and drew strength for his own work from the knowledge that such a person existed. Forty years later, while receiving the Legion of Honor from the President of France in Calcutta, Ray told him that he had alaways considered Renoir to be his ‘principal mentor’.”

3.  In 1950, during a stay in London, Ray saw more than 100 movies, and was shaken to the core by De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves. In a 1982 lecture he said, “I came out of the theatre my mind firmly made up. I would become a filmmaker. . . I would make my film exactly as De Sica had made his: working with non-professional actors, using modest recourses, and shooting on actual locations.”

4.  Pather Panchali is based on a novel that was serialized in a Caluctta journal in 1928. Ray, unlike many Bengali writers, had little first hand knowledge of rural life apart from his travels sketching and painting in the countryside, so capturing the atmopshere of the village in Pather Panchali was a major challenge for him.

Apu in Pather Panchali

Apu in Pather Panchali

5.  After a casting call that brought in hundreds of aspiring young actors, including a girl whose parents cut her hair, the boy who was cast as Apu was spotted playing on a roof next to the apartment where Ray was living in South Calcutta.

6.  Though Ray sought to emulate De Sica, his cast included professional as well as amateur actors.

7.  The old lady who plays the aunt was once a silent screen actress. Her contract stipulated that she be provided with a daily dose of opium. On the one day she didn’t receive it she fainted.

8.  The most important passages of music in the film were composed by sitar legend Ravi Shankar in  all-night session lasting 11 hours.

9.  Ray cited three miracles that allowed the film to be despite its long production time: “One, Apu’s voice did not break. Two, Durga did not grow up. Three, Indur Thakrun did not die.”

10.  Twenty years after Pather Panchali‘s release, Japanese master Akira Kurosawa said, ” I can never forget the excitement in my mind after seeing it. I have had several opportunities to see the film since then and each time I feel more overwhelmed.  It is the kind of cinema that flows with the serenity and nobility of a big river.”

-Linda Dubler

2 Comments so far
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I am doing an article on upcoming events at the High for my school newspaper. Im a member and am constantly there and would really appreciate it if i could get some commentary!
thank you, i understand if there is time constraints.
have a good day!

Comment by jeannette trejo

Hi Jeannette,
Thanks for your message. I’d recommend sending any questions you might have to prinfo@woodruffcenter.org. Someone in our press office will direct your message to the right people.
You can also check out High.org/calendar for programming that’s coming up.

Comment by hmablogmaster

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