Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay is one of those authors whose works will stand the test of time. And that is not only for Bengali literature, but for world literature as a whole. There is this elfin and charming quaintness to his writing – an ability to observe and yet not criticize – an eye for detail where the daily routine bustles past, that makes his works so appealing. Ever so often I end up reading Pather Panchali, Aparajito and Chaander Pahar.
I was reading Andrew Robinson’s The Apu Trilogy : Satyajit Ray and the Making of an Epic since yesterday. If you have read Ray’s own jottings about the movie or, Robinson’s earlier works on it you’d find nothing truly new in the book. The insights and the stories have been written a lot of times, the anecdotes are more or less now in the domain of cinematic lore. However, that wasn’t what was tugging me to read through the book. I think it was Bibhutibhushan who was the force.
I read Pather Panchali when I was way too young to even understand the layered sensitivity and human emotions. And then followed it up with Aparajito. I still recall sitting in some stunned daze one evening when during an adda (if you are from erstwhile Calcutta you’d be familiar with the sort where a mixed group of folks sit together and chatter away about everything, this isn’t the famous ‘adda’ that draws the intellectuals, but more a group whiling time at a local club) someone said that Aparajito was also known as ‘The Unvanquished’. All at once there was, for me, an interesting revelation about the drama in the book. And way later when I watched the trilogy, the one thing that I recall very clearly was Apu’s toothy grin when he sets out with Kajal on his shoulders. For years and years Soumitra Chatterjee redeemed himself in every quirky movie of his that I watched because he was Apu. An Apu who indeed plumbed the depths of rootlessness and emerged unvanquished in every way to seek out a newer, better future with his son.
Ray’s interpretation of the novels have its flaws. Some have celebrated the flaws as ‘his interpretation’ of the text and sometimes provided rationale about the choices made. Irrespective of all of that, the thing that works the best for me is perhaps that Apu (whosoever plays the character) never loses his innate curiosity and goodness.