Pather Panchali: 5 characters that left an everlasting impression
Pather Panchali, the film by legendary Satyajit Ray, is a world classic. It is no wonder that recently it topped the list of 10 greatest Indian films in a poll conducted by the India chapter of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI). The film is an adaptation of the Bengali book by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, published in 1929.
The inspiration behind the making of this film is the people in a typical Bengali village. The movie was made to show the hardships of their lives and how they lead their lives irrespective of abject poverty.
Here are 5 primary characters of Pather Panchali and the impressions they left on us:
In the film, Harihar is the family's patriarch. A Brahmin priest, he holds an optimistic view towards life and firmly believes that god has a plan for him, even though his present is always shaky and the future is bleak. He aspires to become a writer and teaches his son, Apu, basic education hoping that one day his son might become the bearer of the literary torch.
Harihar represents the common Bengali man who has no option but to be positive about life. His employer denies him payment for three months, yet he is too afraid to ask for his rightful pay fearing that he might lose his job. At the end of the film, Harihar leaves his ancestral home and moves which is yet again a sign of his deep positive thinking.
Sarbajaya, Harihar's wife, is another central character in the film. She had dreams of her own but had to forsake them while managing the family with the paltry sum that Harihar makes. Throughout the film she is deeply frustrated yet does not seem cynical. She considers her life a burden as she finds herself alone in her struggle, with Harihar being absent for long periods. Sarbajaya often channels her annoyance in life at the elderly Indir and the young Durga. Although we are told in the film's narrative that Durga is suffering from an unknown illness, her ultimate death at the end of the film comes as the final blow to Sarbajaya.
She is the ailing aunt living with the family. Like most widowed Brahmins of Bengal, she lives a life without love and respect. Despite Sarbajaya's strong disapproval she remains with the family and shares a special bond with Durga. Ultimately, she is thrown out of the house by Sarbajaya and Indir quietly passes away in the wilderness — a symbolic fate that many like her meet in real life.
Although Pather Panchali is about life seen through the eyes of Apu, in reality, the film is more about Durga than it is about Apu. The daughter of Harihar and Sarbajaya, Durga is creative and kind. She enjoys the little things in life and is close with her younger brother, Apu. In the course of the film, Durga is seen stealing perhaps because of the poverty she experiences. Durga is shown as the bond that ties all the characters of the film and when she passes away, the family decides to move on leaving everything that they held dear.
Apu is the youngest child of the family. He looks up to his elder sister, Durga, and goes on many 'adventures'. The iconic train scene that remains a testament to Ray's cinematic brilliance shows the deep sense of wonder and imagination that the two children have. Apu mourns the passing of his aunt Indir and sister Durga before leaving home with his parents.