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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Aparajito (1956)

"What happiness is there in life without a family?"
- A lonely Ray family neighbor

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: December 22, 2003

Stars: Kanu Bannerjee, Karuna Bannerjee, Pinaki Sangupta, Smaran Ghosal
Director: Satyajit Ray

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:50m:27s
Release Date: October 28, 2003
UPC: 043396018112
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The noise level just now surrounding The Lord of the Rings is so unbelievably high that you might think that not only is it the greatest film trilogy ever made, but that it's the only one. Let me demur from the hordes screaming that stupid phrase "instant classic," and suggest that the greatest film trilogy of all time is not Peter Jackson's, but Satyajit Ray's. Aparajito is the second in Ray's Apu trilogy (after Pather Panchali, before The World of Apu), but even aside from the debates on whether my threesome can beat up your threesome, this is a wonderful movie, one of the best film portraits you'll ever see about the pains of male adolescence, and a film at least as good as the one that preceded it. Aparajito is no neglected middle child; it's a fine film that stands just perfectly well on its own, as well as bridging its brothers.

The fear with the second of three is that it can seem either like a tired rehash of the first, or an extended trailer for the third (cf., The Matrix Reloaded, Back to the Future, Part II, or even The Empire Strikes Back), but Ray avoids that by wisely making this a satisfying and self-contained story. When last we left them, Apu and his parents lit out of their small town for the big city, and we meet them again in Banaras, swimming happily in the Ganges, enjoying the opportunity and pleasures of urbanity that would never have been available to them had they not uprooted. Apu's father Hari has found success working as an herbalist of sorts, and Apu (ten years old at the start of this movie) is eager to go to school. Life in Ray movies is about loss, so of course not all goes according to plan; the emotional storms weathered by Apu and his family, their fortitude in the face of adversity, are what makes these movies so memorable.

As Apu ages, Ray makes a casting switch in midstream—Pinaka Sengupta fares better as the younger boy, because he's more of an urchin, an imp; Smaran Ghosal may not be as cute and endearing, but he'll make you feel the awkwardness of the gangly adolescent, searching for his place in the world while also trying to make his mommy happy. You can sense his conflicted nature, between wanting to take care of the woman he loves most, on the one hand, and the lure of Calcutta and college, on the other. Life on campus isn't all sweetness and light, of course; Apu struggles, working a printing press at night to pay for his room and board, nodding off occasionally in the classroom from overwork and lack of sleep. When he goes home, his mother, Sarbajoya, wants only to be reassured that her home cooking is better than what her boy gets in the big bad city.

As with Pather Panchali, Ray's storytelling techniques are understated, and his camera is generally unobtrusive; he's keen on behavior, on atmosphere, on the variegated emotions of family, and he doesn't let anything interfere with our consideration of those. This is no rip-roaring crowd pleaser, nor is it the feel-good movie of any year; it is instead the best cinematic equivalent of a bildungsroman that you'll see, and if you haven't seen it already, will make you eager to watch The World of Apu and round out this young man's saga.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The second of Ray's films looks about as bad as the first, with scratches and imperfections present in nearly every frame. Bacterial decay is especially bad early on in this print, and the whole thing seems to have been dropped onto DVD with nary a look.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: A few passages of this film are in English, which help to illustrate how much interference there is on the soundtrack—pops and crackles, hisses and room tone, uneven dynamics. A sloppy and careless bit of work.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: AGI Media Packaging
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Only chapter stops and English subtitles without remote access.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

As was Pather Panchali, this is an extraordinary cinematic accomplishment from the grand man of Indian filmmaking, and as a story couldn't be more highly recommended. In a perfect world, the DVD would be decked out with a cleaned-up print and a satisfactory package of extras; but until that happens, this will certainly do.


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