by Afra Nariman
Apur Sansar (The World of Apu, 1959)
Director: Satyajit Ray
Stars: Soumitra Chatterjee, Sharmila Tagore
“A young boy. A village boy. Poor… but sensitive. His father’s a priest. The father dies. The boy comes to the city. He doesn’t want to be a priest. He’ll study. He’s ambitious. He studies. Through his education and struggles, we watch as he sheds his old superstitions and fixed views. He questions everything and takes nothing on trust. Yet he has imagination and sensitivity. Little things move him and bring him joy. Perhaps he has greatness in him, the ability to create, but — he doesn’t make it… but it doesn’t end there. It’s not a tragedy. He does nothing great. He remains poor, in want. But he never turns away from life. He doesn’t run away. He wants to live. He says living itself brings fulfillment and joy.”
In my review of Aparajito I wrote that life’s wonders evolved into its curiosities. Here, in Apur Sansar (or The World of Apu), they become life’s lived experiences. Observation becomes at times nostalgic, but more importantly it becomes explicit in its role in Apu’s life — directly informing the present rather than pointing towards the future. Life’s wonders and curiosities are instead remembered, with the determined hope of recapturing the perspective of innocence.
It’s notable that in each film of the trilogy, tragedy for Apu accompanies the presence of a festival; this signifying the intertwined nature of good and bad — celebration and mourning, birth and death — all of which make up life.
Throughout the trilogy, Ray repeatedly tests the human spirit through Apu’s character. In Apur Sansar, Ray affirms both the human spirit’s fragility — as it is momentarily shattered — but also its strength in Apu’s final search for peace and freedom, and his discovering of what those things truly mean.
MY RATING /5:
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