Rather belatedly, Ray decided to add a third film to his Pather Panchali (1955) and the initially unsuccessful Aparajito (1956). A grown-up Apu (Chatterjee’s debut), now living poorly in Calcutta and dreaming of becoming a great novelist, is persuaded to marry a young village woman, Aparna (the 14- year-old Tagore), to protect her honour when her scheduled marriage is abruptly cancelled. The two live together in Calcutta and fall in love, but when Aparna goes to her maternal home for her first pregnancy, she dies although her son lives. Apu rejects the child and tries to overcome his desperation by working in a remote colliery. He eventually accepts his son. The scenes of the young married couple living in poverty are Ray’s first major location shots in contemporary Calcutta, soon to become a leitmotif in his work. Here he also elaborated his way of weaving a complex and suggestive usage of (urban) geography into the cinematic narrative, as in the classic sequences where Apu brings his bride to their new home, a squalid room above a railway line, or the couple’s visit to a movie followed by the cab-ride home. Of the remarkable scene in which Apu reclaims his young son Kajal (Alok Chakraborty), standing in front of the river, Geeta Kapur (1993) notes: ‘He stands at the crossroads extra tall with his child on his shoulder. [B]ut there is in the very courage of this verticality a disjuncture between the future and the past, and a regret at the alienated space of the present’. It also recalls the young Apu at the beginning of the trilogy.
Did you know?
Sharmila Tagore was only 14 when she made the film. Read More