“In a series of fantastically quick, short steps over the lotus leaves, the Alien reaches the shore of the pond. He looks down at the grass, examines the blade and is off hopping into the bamboo grove. There the Alien sees a small plant. His eyes light up with a yellow light. He passes his hand over the plant, and flowers come out. A thin, soft high-pitched laugh shows the Alien is pleased.”
This is the plot of the story that revolves around a spaceship that lands in a pond in rural Bengal. The villagers begin worshiping it as a temple risen from the depths of the earth. The alien, known as “Mr. Ang”, establishes contact with a young village boy named Haba (meaning “Dumb” in Bengali) through dreams and also plays a number of pranks on the village community in the course of its short stay on planet Earth.
If you are thinking this sounds like something today’s movie makers would attempt then I must tell you that the script was written by Ray in 1967, Bankubabur Bandhu (Banku Babu’s Friend or Mr. Banku’s Friend), a Bengali science fiction story he had written in 1962 for Sandesh, the Ray family magazine. Later based on the same concept Ray wrote a script called “The Alien” which was supposed to be made in Hollywood co-produced by Columbia Pictures. Unfortunately for some reasons the movie was never made. However later a young boy picked up the same script and made a movie called ET. And the rest is history.
With Pather Panchali Ray had put Bengali and more so India into the level of world cinema. When it eventually released in New York in 1958, Pather Panchali ran for eight months at the Fifth Avenue Cinema. All of us know what a genius the film is in itself. Every scene is so well crafted and shot that it just takes your breath away. Each scene is a benchmark and a lesson for aspiring filmmakers. But what many people don’t know is that since it was Ray’s first film he didn’t have any producers. So they would shoot when they had money and the shooting would stop when there was no money to shoot. The longest gap was while shooting the film was one year. And the amazing thing is when the shooting resumed in 1954 three miracles happened, “One, Apu’s voice did not break. Two, Durga did not grow up. Three, Indir Thakrun (who was already 80 years old) did not die.”
Storyboard created by Ray. He said in his interview, “there wasn’t a script, it was all in my head.”
You must have seen the move “The Departed” directed by Martin Scorsese, and do you remember the last scene? The view of 1600 fade away and focuses on the rat. Inspired from Ray. Like Scorsese, there are many more who watch Ray’s films as basic lessons for filmmaking.
Today after 60 years when I watch it I get an entirely new perspective of it. The Apu Trilogy and his other films just gets better and better with time. It’s as if we get a better understanding of it with the certain age. Would we ever ab able to appreciate and comprehend in the way it was meant to be? I don’t know. What a visionary!!
I feel pity for those people who would never see his movies and would never know what greatness is.
I wish you I get 0.01% of grace he had, in the films I am going to make in recent future.