A poster of Aparajito
|Directed by||Satyajit Ray|
|Produced by||Epic Films (Satyajit Ray)|
|Screenplay by||Satyajit Ray|
|Based on||Pather Panchali and Aparajita
by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay
Pinaki Sen Gupta
Ramani Sen Gupta
|Music by||Ravi Shankar|
|Edited by||Dulal Dutta|
|Distributed by||Merchant Ivory Productions / Sony Pictures Classics (In US)|
|Release date(s)||11 October 1956|
|Running time||113 minutes|
Aparajito (Bengali: অপরাজিত Ôporajito; The Unvanquished) is a 1956 Indian Bengali drama film directed by Satyajit Ray, and is the second part of The Apu Trilogy. It is adapted from the last one-fifth of Bibhutibhushan Bannerjee's novel Pather Panchali and the first one-third of its sequel Aparajito. It focuses on the life of Apu from childhood to college. The film won eleven international awards, including the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. It is followed by the third part of the trilogy, The World of Apu.
Apu and his parents, who left their home in Bengal, has moved to an apartment in Varanasi where Apu's father Harihar (Kanu Banerjee) works as a priest. Harihar dies soon,and Sarbajaya (Karuna Banerjee) starts working as a maid. Soon, Apu and his mother return to Bengal and settle in the village Mansapota. Apu asks his mother to send him to a school. He has an inquisitive mind and studies diligently; he receives a scholarship to go to Calcutta for further studies. Sarbajaya does not want to let her son leave but she gives in and helps him prepare to leave.
Apu (Smaran Ghosal) starts working at a printing press in Calcutta, after school hours, to subsist. He becomes more accustomed to the city life and feels out of place in the village. Sarbajaya expects visits from him, but he visits only a few times. Her loneliness and yearning for her son continue to grow. She becomes seriously ill, but does not disclose her illness to Apu, lest his studies get disturbed. When Apu finally comes to know about her poor health, he returns to the village to find that she has died. A relative requests him to stay back there and work as a priest. Apu rejects the idea and returns to Calcutta.
- Pinaki Sen Gupta – Apurba "Apu" Roy (boy)
- Smaran Ghosal – Apu (adolescent)
- Kanu Banerjee – Harihar Roy, Apu's father
- Karuna Banerjee – Sarbajaya Roy, Apu's mother
- Ramani Ranjan Sen – Bhabataran, old uncle
- Charu Prakash Ghosh – Nanda Babu
- Subodh Ganguly – Headmaster
Novel and title
Aparajito was based on the last fifth of the novel Pather Panchali and the first third of the novel Aparajita by Bandyopadhyay. The novel Pather Panchali is a classic bildungsroman (a type of coming-of-age story) in the canon of Bengali literature. It first appeared as a serial in a Calcutta periodical in 1928, and was published as a book the next year.According to Robinson, among the three films of the Apu trilogy, Aparajito bears the closest resemblance with its literary source.
The production of Pather Panchali (based on the first four-fifth of the novel of the same name by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay), Ray's first film, was interrupted due to funding problems and took nearly three years. The film was shot mainly on location, had a limited budget, featured mostly amateur actors, and was made by an inexperienced crew. Following its premiere in 1955 during an exhibition in New York's Museum of Modern Art, Pather Panchali was released in Calcutta the same year to enthusiastic reception. The first film from independent India to attract major international critical attention, it won India's National Film Award for Best Feature Film in 1955, the Best Human Document award at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival, and several other awards.
Script and crew
The novels had a female character named Leela who influenced Apu's alienation from his mother when he was living in Calcutta. After rejecting two aspirants, Ray found one actress to portray the character, but the actress was not allowed to act in the film by her fiance. Eventually, Ray removed the character from the script reluctantly. Ray himself later commented that he thought Leela, with whom Apu had an understated affair, was a strong reason behind Apu's attraction of Calcutta, and that without Leela's presence in the film, Apu's attraction to Calcutta may seem to some extent artificial.
Subrata Mitra, the cinematographer for The Apu Trilogy, made his first technical innovation with this film: the introduction of bounce lighting. According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Cinematographers:
The fear of monsoon rain had forced the art director, Bansi Chandragupta, to abandon the original plan to build the inner courtyard of a typical Benares house in the open and the set was built inside a studio in Calcutta. Mitra recalls arguing in vain with both Chandragupta and Ray about the impossibilities of simulating shadowless diffused skylight. But this led him to innovate what became subsequently his most important tool — bounce lighting. Mitra placed a framed painter white cloth over the set resembling a patch of sky and arranged studio lights below to bounce off the fake sky.
Aparajito won the Golden Lion at the 1957 Venice Film Festival, and to date remains the only film sequel to ever win the grand prize at the prestigious Venice, Berlin or Cannes Film Festivals. Ray also won the Golden Gate awards for Best Picture and Best Director at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1958 for this film. The film also won the Bodil Award for Best Non-European Film of the Year at Denmark in 1967.
Film critic James Berardinelli wrote:
- "Aparajito was filmed forty years ago, half way around the world, yet the themes and emotions embedded in the narrative are strikingly relevant to modern Western society (thus explaining why it is called a "timeless classic")... Aparajito is an amazing motion picture. Its rich, poetic composition is perfectly wed to the sublime emotional resonance of the narrative. For those who have seen Pather Panchali, Aparajito provides a nearly-flawless continuation of the journey begun there. Yet, for those who missed Ray's earlier effort, this film loses none of its impact. On its own or as part of the Apu Trilogy, Aparajito should not be missed."
In 1992, Sight & Sound (the British Film Institute's film magazine) ranked The Apu Trilogy at No. 88 in its Critics' Poll of all-time greatest films, while Aparajito itself was ranked separately at No. 127 on the same list. In 2002, a combined list of Sight & Sound critics' and directors' poll results included Aparajito in its top 160. In 1998, the Asian film magazine Cinemaya's critics' poll of all-time greatest films ranked The Apu Trilogy at No. 7 on the list. In 1999, The Village Voice ranked The Apu Trilogy at No. 54 in its Top 250 "Best Films of the Century" list, based on a poll of critics. In 2001, film critic Roger Ebert included The Apu Trilogy in his list of "100 Great Movies" of all time. In 2005, The Apu Trilogy was included in Time magazine's All-TIME 100 Greatest Movies list. At Rotten Tomatoes, Aparajito has a 93% fresh rating based on an aggregate of 14 reviews.
Smaran Ghosal who played the role of adolescent Apu, at the age of 14, did only one more film, documentary Rabindranath Tagore (1961), also made by Ray, where he played young Rabindranath Tagore. Smaran died in 2008 in Kolkata, at the age of 64.
Aparajito was preceded by Pather Panchali (1955) and followed by Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) in 1959. Together, the three films constitute the Apu trilogy. Pather Panchali portrays the childhood of Apu in their ancestral house. Apur Sansar depicts Apu's adult life, his reaction to his wife's premature death, and his final bonding with his son whom he abandoned as an infant. Ray did not initially plan to make a trilogy: he decided to make the third film only after being asked about the possibility of a trilogy at the 1957 Venice Film Festival, where Aparajito won the Golden Lion. The film is considered as the richest of three in terms of its characterization. Apur Panchali (2014) is a Bengali film directed by Kaushik Ganguly, which depicts the real-life story of Subir Bannerjee, the actor who portrayed Apu in Pather Panchali.
According to Michael Sragow of The Atlantic Monthly in 1994, "The youthful coming-of-age dramas that have flooded art houses since the mid-fifties owe a tremendous debt to the Apu trilogy, which Terrence Rafferty has rightly called "cinema's purest Bildungsroman." Across the world, filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, James Ivory, Abbas Kiarostami, Elia Kazan and Wes Anderson have been influenced by The Apu Trilogy, with many others such as Akira Kurosawa praising the work. The technique of bounce lighting developed by the cinematographer Subrata Mitra for Aparajito has also had a profound influence on the development of cinematography. After Aparajito, Ray went on to make 35 more films, including feature films, documentaries and shorts. He worked on scripting, casting, scoring, cinematography, art direction, editing and designing his own credit titles and publicity material. He developed a distinctive style of film-making based on visual lyricism and strong humanism, as in his Apu trilogy. Thus Ray established himself as an auteur of cinema.
Awards and nominations
- Winner – 1957 – Golden Lion of St. Mark for Best Film
- Winner – 1957 – Cinema Nuovo Award
- Winner – 1957 – Critics Award
- Winner – 1960 – Selznick Golden Laurel for Best Film
- Winner – 1958 – Golden Gate for Best Picture
- Winner – 1958 – Golden Gate for Best Director – Satyajit Ray
- Winner – 1958 – International Critics' Award
- Bodil Awards (Denmark)
- Winner – 1967 – Best Non-European Film
- Golden Laurel (United States)
- Winner – 1958–1959 – Best Foreign Film 
- British Academy Film Awards (United Kingdom)
- Nominated – 1959 – BAFTA Award for Best Film
- Nominated – 1959 – BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress – Karuna Banerjee
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- Comparisons of film versions of Aparajito
- Reelviews review of Aparajito