Sharmila Tagore on the Pather Panchali 60th Anniversary
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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