“In the final moments of the film, Kajal has rejected Apu. When Apu’s father-in-law is about to strike Kajal with a stick because he has refused to leave with Apu, Apu rescues Kajal instinctively. A hint of trust begins to develop. Apu starts to walk away as he has given up hope of earning Kajal’s love. But Kajal has now decided to trust Apu. He runs away to join Apu as grandfather watches from a distance. Apu sweeps up Kajal in his arms. Both leave for a new life together with Apu carrying Kajal on his shoulders.”
‘The World of Apu’, directed by Satyajit Ray in 1959, is the third film in a trilogy that started with ‘Pather Panchali’. It completes the story of Apu, a boy who in the first film loses his sister and then, with his mother and father, leaves his small village for the city. In this film, he is alone and unemployed in Calcutta. His friend takes him to a remote village for a wedding and, owing to a strate twist of fate, he becomes a substitute bridegroom. The subsequent marriage is a tragic one but the film ends with a suggestion of hope as he reconciles with his own abandoned son and, as he did in the first film, they leave together for the city. It’s a powerful film that allows the viewer an intimate view into the life of a man, the performances are perfectly pitched and subtle, especially as Apu falls for his wife. The film also beautifully presents the landscape of Bengal, unlike the first film that stayed confined to the village. In this movie, Ray allows the narrative to roam across the country. Apu, suffering from profound loss, tours India and his wandering goes some way to healing him, just as the family leaving the village in ‘Pather Panchali’ became an essential part of the grieving process. Highlight of the film are this tour, but also the more intimate, domestic scenes between Apu and his wife. The ending of the film, in which Apu’s son slowly comes to know his estranged father, is moving and the perfect emotional and thematic end to the trilogy. Now I just need to see the second film.
Would I recommend it? Yes – obviously with the other films in Ray’s trilogy. But ‘The World of Apu’ also says a lot about loss and loneliness, so maybe a Bergman movie, or even ‘Tokyo Story’ might be appropriate and a complimentary piece.