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Pather Panchali film image, children in long grass

A prolific filmmaker, Satyajit Ray made 37 features as writer and director in 36 years (and wrote the musical score for most of them too). His work takes in every strata of Bengali society, from peasant life to the upper classes, and he approached each of them with a profound humanism.

Ray came from a cultured Bengali household. His father (who died in 1923) and his grandfather were both writers, and Tagore was a close friend of the family. Educated in Bengali and English, Ray studied science and economics in Calcutta, then went to Tagore’s rural university in Shantiniketan to study fine arts, where he was immersed in Indian and far eastern art. Although he gravitated to western classical music and Hollywood movies, Ray stressed that as a filmmaker, he was as much the product of Shantiniketan. The culture clash – and especially, the tensions between tradition and modernity that go hand in hand with colonialism and development – is central to many of Ray’s films.

In 1944 he was asked to illustrate a 1930s Bengali novel, Pather Panchali, the story of a peasant family and the travails of Apu, the son who eventually quits the village for the town. Seven years later – encouraged by a meeting with Jean Renoir on The River in 1949 – Ray set out to make this his first film. It was an arduous, three-year process, financed in part by the sale of his record collection and his wife’s jewelry, but when Pather Panchali screened at Cannes in 1956 Ray was immediately recognized as a new master. It was enough, at any rate, to allow him to give up his day job in an advertising company.

A depiction of rural Bengali life in a style inspired by Italian neorealism, this naturalistic but poetic evocation of a number of years in the life of a family introduces us to both little Apu and, just as essentially, the women who will help shape him: his independent older sister, Durga; his harried mother, Sarbajaya, who, with her husband away, must hold the family together; and his kindly and mischievous elderly “auntie,” Indir—vivid, multifaceted characters all. With resplendent photography informed by its young protagonist’s perpetual sense of discovery, Pather Panchali, which won an award for Best Human Document at the Cannes Film Festival, is an immersive cinematic experience and a film of elemental power.

Sunday’s Pantheon screening will be preceded by a 15 minute introductory lecture and feature a book club-style discussion afterwards.

It is the kind of cinema that flows with the serenity and nobility of a big river.

Akira Kurosawa on Satyajit Ray.

A quiet reverie about the life of an impoverished Brahman family in a Bengali village. Beautiful, sometimes funny, and full of love, it brought a new vision of India to the screen.

Pauline Kael, The New Yorker


Presented by


Satyajit Ray


Subir Bannerjee, Kanu Bannerjee, Karuna Bannerjee

Country of Origin





In Bengali with English subtitles

125 min

Book Tickets

Sunday September 15

11:00 am
Guests/Q&As Hearing Assistance Subtitles
VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
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Tuesday September 17

5:50 pm
Hearing Assistance Subtitles
VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Book Now



Satyajit Ray


Subrata Mitra


Dulal Dutta

Original Music

Ravi Shankar

Production Design

Bansi Chandragupta

Art Director

Bansi Chandragupta

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