Pather Panchali

Critics Consensus

A film that requires and rewards patience in equal measure, Pather Panchali finds director Satyajit Ray delivering a classic with his debut.



Total Count: 43


Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,056
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Movie Info

Pather Panchali (Father Panchali), Indian director Satyajit Ray's first feature film, relates the story of an impoverished Bengalese family. When the father (Karuna Bannerjee) leaves for the city to pursue a writing career, the mother (Karuna Banerji) is left with the responsibility of caring for the rest of the brood. Gradually, the film's true central character emerges: Apu (Subir Banerji), the family's son. Though excruciatingly realistic at times, Pather Panchali takes an occasional timeout to dwell on the purely cinematic. For example, when the mother receives a postcard bearing good news, Ray dissolves to a pond, where a pair of water skates scamper about. The music by Ravi Shankar at first seems to be at odds with the action; soon, however, we come to accept the music as a logical outgrowth of the events at hand. A multiple award winner, Pather Panchali was the first of Ray's celebrated "Apu Trilogy" (the other two entries were 1956's Aparajito and 1959's The World of Apu). The film was also released as The Song of the Road and The Lament of the Path. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Runki Banerji
as Durga as a child
Kanu Banerji
as Harihar the Father
Karuna Bannerjee
as Sarbojaya Ray
Umas Das Gupta
as Durga as a young girl
Chunibala Devi
as Indirtharkun the old aunt
Tulshi Chakraborty
as Prasanna Schoolmaster
Reva Devi
as Mrs. Mookerji
Rama Gangopadhaya
as Ranu Mookerji
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News & Interviews for Pather Panchali

Critic Reviews for Pather Panchali

All Critics (43) | Top Critics (13)

  • Extremely touching in its simplicity, emotional range and visual beauty, it's no wonder it became the first Indian film to achieve widespread international acclaim and establish Ray as a master filmmaker.

    Apr 3, 2017 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Beautiful, sometimes funny, and full of love, it brought a new vision of India to the screen.

    May 4, 2015 | Full Review…
  • It is a pastoral poem dappled with the play of brilliant images and strong, dark feelings, a luminous revelation of Indian life in language that all the world can understand.

    Oct 17, 2011 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic
  • Fresh as a daisy after all these years, Satyajit Ray's 1955 spellbinder comes underpinned by a tumultuous Ravi Shankar sitar and paints a ground's-eye portrait of life in an impoverished Bengali village.

    Oct 24, 2007 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

    Xan Brooks

    Top Critic
  • Satyajit Ray's beautiful first feature.

    Oct 24, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Film justly won the 'most human document award' at the 1956 Cannes Film Fest, unveiling a mature film talent in director Satyajit Ray.

    Oct 24, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Pather Panchali

  • Sep 04, 2018
    Clearly influenced by Italian neorealism, this is the simple story of a small family living in poverty in rural Bengal. The backstory behind the film is quite impressive; it was director Satyajit Ray's first, and done with an incredibly low budget, inexperienced crew, and amateur actors. The result is often stunning. There are some truly beautiful scenes in the natural surroundings where the family live, and the cinematography is wonderful. The family members are striking as well, starting with the grandmother (Chunibala Devi), who with her withered face and stooped back, has quite an appearance. Devi portrays the character with inner fire and depth, and it was sad to read she passed away at 80 before the film was released. The little boy, Apu (Subir Banerjee) also looks out on the world he is growing up in with such beautiful eyes. Despite the film being the first in the 'Apu Trilogy', the film really centers on the mother (Karuna Banerjee), who is the bedrock of the family. She keeps it together while the husband (Kanu Banerjee) pursues idealistic dreams, often not taking their economic condition seriously enough. She deals with her neighbors, who criticize her daughter (Runki Banerjee and Uma Dasgupta) for stealing fruit, and also her parenting. She accepts her own broken dreams ("I had lots of dreams too. All the things I wanted to do..."), and handles the sadness which comes their way. While I appreciated the film's beauty, and the fact that it transported me into this impoverished little world, it was a little too quiet for my taste. There are some moving events and it finishes strong, but too much of it was mundane along the way. Perhaps Ray simply captures this little world perfectly, without pretense and completely realistically, which artistically is saying something, and what resonates so strongly with most critics. If that's what you're looking for, this is your film. As an alternative, I personally liked a couple of his later films better (Charulata (1964), and The Coward (1965)), which you might consider.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 05, 2017
    Nothing spectacular at all. Entirely overrated. I like old movies (and foreign films) but hardly anything happens in this one!
    Peter B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 25, 2015
    An impressive achievement considering that this was Ray's first film, and he displays an enormous confidence in the direction of this hypnotizing and realistic look into the life of a Bengali family struggling with poverty as witnessed by the eyes of an eight year-old boy.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Oct 01, 2014
    India's greatest film is staggering in its depth of character but ultimately lacking in hope. This is of course not necessarily a bad thing.
    John B Super Reviewer

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