Those who have seen Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy (‘Pather Panchali’ – 1955, ‘Aparajito’ – 1956 and ‘The World of Apu’ – 1959) would experience a riot of emotions before seeing this film. It is like revisiting a long-forgotten, two-third read classic, anticipating if it would evoke or arouse the same kind of feelings that it did the first time around. And those who have not seen the Apu Trilogy, ‘Avijatrik’ would be a good enough reason to revisit the trilogy.
This Bengali film with English subtitles, is based on the concluding chapters of Bhibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s novel ‘Aparajito’. It takes off from where it left in ‘The World of Apu’. It shows us how Apu has finally realised his responsibilities and returns to his roots accompanied by his endearing and likeminded son, Amitabh Kumar Roy, who he fondly calls Kajol.
Like Ray’s trilogy, Subhrajit Mitra’s ‘Avijatrik’ is a black-and-white’ period drama. It is also aligned to auteur Satyajit Ray’s mode of narrative, which centres predominantly on the complicated doctrine of the Rasa theory of Sanskrit drama. Here the feelings experienced by the characters are conveyed in a peculiar artistic way to the spectator, which may at times appear to be too verbose but yet is distinct in style.
But unlike the trilogy, the structure of storytelling in ‘Avijatrik’ differs. The plot is split into five chapters, each titled on a specific location that propels the narrative.
Set during pre-independence India, the first chapter – ‘The Train Journey’ sets Apu’s story rolling when by happenstance he meets his childhood friend Lila on the train while travelling to Kashi. For a moment, the scene between Apu and Lila conversing on the train reminds you of elements from the 1960 released, ‘Meghe Dhaka Tara’ which was directed by Ritwik Ghatak.
Thereafter, the happenings in Kashi forms the second chapter, followed by Calcutta, Nishichindpur – Apu’s ancestral village, and then Khasai Hills which is the first destination of his wanderlust.
The story is simple and throughout the film we realise how Apu has evolved as a human being, seeking the meaning of life. His meek and unpretentious viewpoints about life are poignant as well as troubling. The simplicity of the character mirroring a simpleton is what makes him appealing and Arjun Chakrabarty essays him with perfection. Equally enchanting is Ayushmaan Mukherjee, who plays his charming son Kajol.
Ditipriya Roy as Apu’s wife Aparna, Sabyasachi Chakraborty as the explorer, and all others in supporting roles keep you enthralled with their effortless performances.
Moreover, what keeps you glued to the screen is Supratim Bhol’s cinematography. His camera movements are flawless, and each frame, picture-perfect. The background score and music elevate the viewing experience.
Overall, while Satyajit Ray’s films have their place on the mantel of world cinema, Subhrajit Mitra adds his ‘Avijatrik’ to complete the Apu tetralogy.
–By Troy Ribeiro