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1Seminar Paperon‘Neo-Realism in Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali’In partial fulfilment of the requirements for Award of Degree ofMasters of Arts in English Submitted By: Submitted to: Nrittisha Sam Dr Madhura Mukopadhyay A0710320056 Assistant Professor Amity Institute of English Studies and Research AMITY UNIVERSITY UTTAR PRADESH India2Satyajit Ray is recognised as one of the best filmmakers of the 20th century. He was an ambassador of parallel cinema in India. Through his films, Ray depicted the everyday struggles, conflicts, joys, and sorrows of the human race. Satyajit Ray’s debut film and his opera prima Pather Panchali (Song of The Road), 1955 was the first film of the so-called Apu trilogy based on Bhibutibushan Bandopadhya’s Bengali novel of the same title publishedin 1929. Pather Panchali won the ‘Best Human Document’ award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1956. Critics like J. Hoberman referred to Pather Panchali as “the last masterpiece of Italian neorealism.”The neo-realistic influence that is apparent in most of Ray’s movies came from his association with the famous French Director Jean Renoir who came to India to film The River(1951) as also from the neo-realistic propensities of the then prevailing Italian cinema. Vittorio De Sica’s movie The Bicycle Theif (1948) left a profound impression on Ray’s mind.Hence, his first film Pather Panchali had major elements of neorealism present in it. The film Pather Panchali is almost like a documentary, simple enough to be understood at alllevels. It narrates the story of a poor family living in a Bengal village. A priest - Harihar, his wife - Sarbajaya, his two children - Apu and Durga, and his aged cousin - Indir Thakrun, struggle to make a living. Harihar frequently goes away from home on work. The wife raises her mischievous daughter Durga and takes care of the elderly cousin Indir. Soon after Apu’s birth, Durga and Apu build a bond as they explore the world around the village. The sequences of Durga and Apu are the most dramatic moments in the film. On a stormy day, after dancing in the monsoon rain, Durga dies. After Harihar returns home, he comes to knowabout his daughter’s death. Later, he and his family leave their village in search of a new life in Benaras. The film closes with an image of Harihar, wife and son - Apu, moving way in an ox cart. The open-ended story of Pather Panchali is a classic example of neo-realist cinema techniques and thus, leaves the audience making their own conclusions and assumptions afterthe story ends. This generates a sort of inquisitiveness in some and irritation due to lack of closure in some others.Ray filmed Pather Panchali by heavily relying on the elements of Italian neo-realism. Not only, his film was depicted the time after World War II, but he also focused on the domestic setting and the poverty of a rural family and on especially that family's youngest child Apu.3Surnjan Ganguly commented that Pather Panchali is the first work of Indian cinema that shifted the emphasis from exteriority to interiority, that is Pather Panchali is an investment inthe inner subjectivity of “psychological realism”. Ganguly believes “Ray tells Apu’s story notwithin a melodramatic framework, but in terms of an evolving male consciousness”. To further lend neorealistic elements to his film, Ray used unknown actors to lend authenticity to his film. Ray also shot the film using natural locations, for he wanted the backdrop of each shot to speak for itself. The visuals of Pather Panchali have an expressionistic quality that shifts towards melodrama rather than realism, one of Pather Panchali's most striking sequences are near the end of the film that depict the night, the storm, the lightning flashes, point-of-view shots of meaningful details such as the rattling door bolt, the flickering lamp flame, the camera slowly moving into the unsteady statue of Ganesh, these visuals transform the comforting domestic space of the family home into a horror film setting. The score, composed by future superstar sitar player Ravi Shankar, sounds as unabashedly Indian as the rest of the style is European, but this is nowhere near the everything-goes tradition of Hindi-language musicals that dominated Indian film production till then. Pather Panchali was one ofthe inaugural films in the Parallel Cinema movement, a new wave of Bengali-language films derived from literary sources and favouring aesthetic and narrative realism. Pather Panchali included all the essential characteristics of neo-realism as proposed by the Italian Film Director, Cesare Zabattini. The neo-realistic theory stated that the filmmaker should never try to impose his own individual interpretation on the movie that he is making and should always remain a passive observer of the reality that he happens to be creating. It does not matter whether the film-maker is depicting misery or prosperity, the moviemaker should always uphold the utmost objectivity, by subordinating logic to action at all times. Although even the staunchest of the neo-realists were utterly unable to attain such total objectivity for the simple reason that the subjective element always tended to creep into any artistic creation, they never stopped trying to achieve it.The same thing holds true for Satyajit Ray when he made his debut film Pather Panchali. Ray was virtually unable to keep the subjective element out of his movie. But he never made comments on his actions, characters or situations. He never pitched hints at his audience and never told them to feel and think in a particular way. At the same time, he was not at all apprehensive about taking the appropriate stances. This is because he was predisposed not to his characters but to the drama of life itself. He had his own ways to suffuse life onto the4screen to impart a shimmer of hope to all his characters. Hence, his Pather Panchali is considered by critics of the Bicycle Thieves to be a masterpiece of neorealism.5References-● Majumdar, Neepa. From Neorealism to Melodrama.● Ganguly, Suranjan. Satyajit Ray: In Search of the Modern. Lanham, MD:Scarecrow, 2000.● Zavattini, Cesare. “Some Ideas on Cinema”. Sight and Sound 23.2


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