Tuesday, June 01, 2004


Not long after having caught a colour-drained version of Distant Thunder on VHS, I got a chance to watch the second installment in Ray's legendary Road trilogy, Aparajito on DVD. The credits on this Sony release included references and acknowledgements to the Merchant Ivory foundation (who have been responsible for a lot of remastering and repackaging of Ray's classics, which have been, sad to say, neglected by good old India!). The film itself is a solid fluid blend of technique and narrative. I haven't read the source novels, but I remember reading about Ray taking liberties in translating the literary works to screen. This in itself is something one must expect because the two media are so different (something that even Isaac Asimov discusses in his introduction to the print version of Harlan Ellison's I, Robot screenplay, which lays a strong claim for being "the greatest screenplay never filmed" -- the upcoming Will Smith movie promises only upsets for me). But whatever I get to see on screen works marvellously. The adept use of film technique to tell a story more effectively is something I have seen in Hitchcock's films (although on several occasions, it is easier to read Hitch's films than Ray's). And Ray makes all this look so effortless. Ravi Shankar's music didn't help much though, and I might side with Ray's decision later on to compose the music for his films himself -- given that the score for Distant Thunder worked well IMHO. The film is full of great sequences (including the famous montage when Harihar breathes his last and Apu has to perform the last rites) and my favourites would be the fireflies appearing the decorate Sarbojaya's view as she waits and watches hoping that Apu will come home, and the moment when Apu collapses in grief at the base of an old tree and the camera moves back to accomodate a younger tree in the same frame. It was a pity that the only opportunity I had back home to watch Ray's movies was the badly managed rushed retrospective that Doordarshan plunged into when Ray passed away. But I hope I get a chance to watch 'em all again. Time well spent with quality cinema.

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