– There seems to be this opinion among commercial film-makers that art films tend to be slow and must show people doing monotonous things like maybe just walking down a road for a long time. And I could see how people would have gotten that notion after watching some of Ray’s films. Like in this film, there are scenes where they show Apu’s father walking home after his morning ablutions, they show Apu randomly playing around along the shores of the Ganga and watch a muscular fellow train himself. But, I think the difference is that Ray manages to keep your interest sustained. He avoids telling the audience things explicitly. And thereby even if there are hardly any dialogues, visually your interest is sustained.
– I just love the idea of two characters talking to each other without even looking at each other’s face. It happens a lot of times in this movie. When husband talks to wife, when mother talks to Apu, when Apu and his friend from college are lying on the grass and talking, when Apu talks to the printing press owner before he reads the letter given by the principal. This is what makes Ray’s films seem like real life. People sometimes just don’t talk looking at each other and that’s what he captures so beautifully.
– I just love how Apu begins to explain to his mother about the globe only after she says he can go to Calcutta.
– The brightness of Apu in academics is never overemphasized. When Apu manages to read a poem very well, we are not given mid-shots of amazed looks from his peers. We are just given a smile from the supervisor. The principal too admits his admiration only the next day when he passes some books to Apu for further reading. And when Apu has to do work in the press, we are not shown shots like he manages both work and studies very well. We are shown a shot where he’s working and glances at a small clock nearby, wipes off his sweat & continues working and next day in class he dozes off slightly.
– I read a quote by Satyajit Ray that I really liked. He said something like Hollywood has trained screenwriters to write only that which is relevant to the plot and leave out the other details. He believes in a style of filmmaking where the seemingly irrelevant details add to the atmosphere of the film and draw the audience further into the film. A classic example of that is in the scene where Apu is sent out of the class in college for having dozed off and the teacher also asks his friend to leave. Now as the friend walks out of class, he looks off screen (at Apu we assume) and then does not immediately go talk to him. He walks to a tap nearby, places his books on the edge, drinks some water, wipes his hands and then casually walks towards Apu who is then revealed to be sobbing. Now the standard Hollywood way of writing would have dictated that the friend should directly go to the sobbing Apu. Apu sobbing is the focus of the scene and we should get to it without distractions. So why does Ray indulge in letting the friend drink water from the tap. I think it’s because of what he said about the seemingly insignificant detail. Somehow that small action gave some depth, some amount of reality to the friend’s character.
– I did not understand certain portions though. Like the second time when Apu is leaving for Calcutta, before going to sleep he opens a book, checks a particular line and then dozes off asking his mother to wake him up. We are shown a closeup of the book and the exact line on which he places his hand. Since there was no subtitles for that line he read, I did not get what that was about. Also, I am not sure what made him come back home for another extra day after buying the train ticket. Was it out of love or affection for his mom? If it were so why didn’t he talk to her then? He comes back and instantly lies down to sleep.