Sharmila Tagore on the Pather Panchali 60th Anniversary

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In 1955, a visit to the cinema was a rare experience for us, something the adults in our family severely frowned upon. Pather Panchali, however, was an exception. The anticipation had built up weeks before the film was finally released. Our joint family household was abuzz with excited speculation about the film and its maker. Here at last was a film good enough for our children.

I remember watching the film with my cousins, rapt with attention, feeling distraught when Durga was being thrashed, shocked by the naughty things she got up to, and somewhat envious of her free spirit. All the while, not having a clue that three years on, I would be on that big screen in front of me and others would be watching me. That was 60 years ago, the years seem to have gone by so quickly.

My association with Satyajit Ray began in 1958 and continues to this day even after his passing. What a privilege and education it has been, both professionally and personally. Is it not incredible that 60 years after he made his first film, and 23 years after his death, his work continue to be a part of our discourse and consciousness, seen and admired in so many countries and across so many cultures? It is a tribute, not only to the artistic merit of his films, but to what has been called the ‘essential humanism’ of Ray – which has lived on through time and space.

His films are conversations with the shifting sands of time through which he lived, and which in turn shaped his films. The first phase of his career coincided with the hope and idealism of a newly emergent nation, and saw him make what in effect were his finest films – movies that truly reflects the spirit of the times. They also reflected his own upbringing, his education in music and the arts and his belief in the confluence of east and west. This vision was both Tagorean and Nehruvian.

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11 Responses to “Sharmila Tagore on the Pather Panchali 60th Anniversary”

  1. Wonderful read…

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  2. Have to see this movie again. Saw it when my staple diet was Mithun/Dharmendra movies 🙂

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  3. Thanks, really enjoyed that.

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  4. An incredible read. Moving really. Loved every insight here, but this was the highlight to my mind:

    “Yet sadly, there are those who thought that his international fame was undeserved and that he got his international acclaim by peddling Indian poverty abroad. One would’ve thought that such an absurd viewpoint would by now have been dismissed with the contempt it deserves. However, it keeps cropping up every now and then and this is certainly a lie that needs to be nailed. The implication seems to be that to be a true nationalist one must sweep truths about India under the carpet. This is precisely what Ray’s cinema stood against and this indeed is the ideological difference between Sandeep and Nikhilesh in Ghare Baire. For Nikhilesh, as for Tagore and Ray, the people and their predicament came first and not love for one’s country in the abstract.”

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    • Yes indeed, that’s the best quote in the piece — over half a century on the discourse however shows little sign of being elevated…

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      • Yeah and importantly the discourse has come to include all sorts of filmmakers not only in Ray’s tradition but even within the mainstream when the work is engaging with something that is either very remotely or more directly unflattering. It’s kind of lose-lose.

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  5. By the way, what is a “bounce light”?

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  6. Am truly very surprised, Sharmila Tagore being so eloquent. This was such a good read.

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