“Aparajito” directed by Anik Dutta counter-productively subjugates the very essence of the foundation of Satyajit Ray’s filmmaking ideology, keeping in mind the struggle and the perseverance shown by the great filmmaker at that time. Keeping aside the debate as to why the names of the films were changed (that’s a typical production issue), as a structured documentary drama, this film, like a lot of its genre, has its ups and downs. Sequentially, the actors, reminiscing the characters from the great “Pather Panchali,” can also be questioned regarding their performances. All in all, ‘Aparajito’ contains partial success, if not a wholesome extraordinary.
Casting someone with a facial synonymy for Satyajit Ray is one of the few masterstrokes incorporated by the director Anik Dutta. Apart from that, a lot of things started to fall apart. “Aparajito” can also be referred to as the height of mediocrity, as the story somehow loses its intention right after Aparajito Ray invests himself in filmmaking. The story was expected to be the journey of Satyajit Ray’s venture into the world of impossibilities, but as it turned out, it was a few strokes of struggles and the grand audience of ‘Pather Panchali: The Making.’
How ‘Aparajito’ Fails As A Film But Prospers As A Parody
Let’s just think of the basic notes of filmmaking and also the fact that a director can pick however he wants to tell us the story—all cool. The legendary poet became Srikumar, and even “Pather Panchali” became “Pather Padabali.” We can always agree to disagree with the fact that it was a call beyond our understanding. Also, not using the name ‘Satyajit’ for once can be considered a significant move that too is beyond our understanding, but there should not be any excuse why ‘Bicycle Thieves’ should be named as ‘Bicycle Riders’! We are no experts in film business, but it really hurts as an audience to see these drastic changes. This is a complaint on behalf of the audience, not out of disrespect but despair.
Since it is a story of a greater man, by all means, as an audience, these points can be ignored as long as Jeetu Kamal was performing with his utmost gut. There are a lot of sacrifices yet to be made from the audience’s perspective, such as the great representation of Satyajit Roy, whose Bengali is not at all soothing to the ears, it was more orchestrated. Although, the voice and the stature were very much complementary, including his approach in establishing the character. Jeetu Kamal, no doubt, has worked hard, and it is seen through his gestures. Even so, his dialogues were neatly written with high regard for the great man himself.
The misery doesn’t end. The casting of Apu (Manik in the movie) is accurate enough, but Anusha Vishwanathan playing the role of Durga is somewhat of a mockery to the original character. If you even want to overlook the fact that she does not have any influence like Durga, in the rain sequence of ‘Pather Panchali,’ where Durga was playing with the rain, it turns out to be pure torture to even look at. How many bows can you take as an audience who is proud of having a cult-like “Pather Panchali” and then seeing someone destroying every essence of it?
Partial Happy Moments
Satyajit Roy, through his character ‘Feluda’ in the story ‘Bombaiyer Bombete,’ said, “When you’re going to visit a place, you have to know the history of it, otherwise the present will not be as remarkable as it looks.” If we take Anik Dutta’s “Aparajito” as a starting point, history is something that we need to learn. Those in the audience who knew the history well would have known for sure that Anik Dutta did good research, if not well established on screen. There has not been any Bengali movie ever made with such a resemblance to the lead character. For this, Anik Dutta deserves a round of applause.
From the early days of calligraphy to the days of becoming an independent filmmaker, Aparajito Roy’s change of tone is one of the crucial things that came out extraordinarily as a blessing. This film nevertheless established the golden memories of Chunibala Devi, played by Haro Kumar Gupta. It was an almost exact casting, and the performance he brought in, more or less 4-5 minutes, truly deserves a standing ovation. Saayoni Ghosh, too, never lacked confidence in playing the better half of Satyajit Ray.
Technically, “Aparajito” was not at all disappointing, though it could have been genuinely impactful. The cinematography of Supratim Bhol was apt in frames, even outdoors the contrast and the contempt was in balance. It was a behind-the-scenes-black-and-white movie of an original black-and-white film, so it had its own impact, which somehow carried the expectations to a high, if not satisfactory, level with the audience.
The Suffering Is Worth It, Though
“Aparajito” fails in so many aspects, as it never intended to deliver the life-like story, but rather wanted to create a wax museum of the journey of the original masterpiece. Satyajit Ray was the master of a tough skill, i.e., crafting impossibilities with so much confidence and manufacturing the best out of them. Here, in ‘Aparajito,’ the audience will get the essence of what stature he maintained, and how confident he was in believing that he could make a film out of the classic Bengali novel.
As a Bengali, exploring through the eyes of Satyajit Ray is always as pleasing as believing magic exists. While you watch “Aparajito,” the thought that this is a movie about Satyajit Ray, without even his name being uttered once in the film, is a joy in itself. Influenced by Italian Neorealism, it took more than three years to shoot “Pather Panchali.” Can you imagine the struggle that went through Satyajit Ray? Maybe! Maybe not! Although Anik Dutta’s “Aparajito” failed to portray the struggle, it never lacked the fact that society was not ready for Neorealism.
“Aparajito” is not an exceptional movie, not even a movie worth high regard, but it is a movie that was long overdue. This may be one of the reasons why people are so driven by it. Everyone wants to know the history because everyone believes that there was a struggle. Crafting a black and white is never an easy task; as Anik Dutta took a number of risks, the audience can thank him at least for making a story that the audience needed to learn and unlearn both at the same time. Was it necessary to change the names? Was it a wise decision to even tell the story?
From catastrophe to cacophonic victory, “Aparajito” might have just lost the battle, but won a million hearts.