Song of the little road (Pather Panchali)

pather-panchali-posterIndian black and white Bengali language drama from 1955.
Starring: Kanu Bannerjee, Karuna Bannerjee, Subir Banerjee
Director: Satyajit Ray
Writers: Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, Satyajit Ray
Bechdel test: Pass


Durga and her younger brother Apu, grow up in an impoverished family with their mother as the caretaker, their old auntie as a dependent and their father as an inefficient breadwinner. What will happen when their father goes away to earn money?


All the descriptions I have read about this movie, claims that it is about Apu, but all the action centers abound Durga and her mother Sarbojaya. These descriptions might be in deference to the two subsequent movies in the trilogy, which is about Apu’s later life.

Also, the name of the movie is sometimes given in English as “Song of the little road”, but it seems to be mostly referred to as “Pather Panchali”. I have used both names.

The action in “Pather Panchali” takes place in the 1910’s and we see a few hints of influence of the British in the movie, such as tattered old uniforms on a brass band, but it is not a feature. Most of the action takes place in the courtyard of the families house, and the woods just outside. There is plenty of evidence that the family is dirt poor, both in action and surroundings. Their house is almost falling down, their clothes are worn to rags, and they struggle to have daily food. One dream is to have several meals each day.


“Pather Panchali” is beautifully made, with plenty of scenes that makes me wish that this wasn’t a black and white movie. The audio was a bit crackly on the copy that I saw, but that’s not necessarily true for all copies. The music set the tone for the region, and underscored what was dramatic, fun or everyday quite well. I also liked the songs of old Auntie Indir.

The acting of the female characters are amazing, and they inhabit their roles in such a way that I have a lot of empathy with the women in the movie. That is partly due to the story, but the acting is still on another level than what I’ve seen in other movies about poverty in the third world this month, such as “A river called Titas” and “Manila in the claws of light“.

The direction and the story is also of much better quality than these two movies. The imagery is strong and underscores the difficulties the family faces. This might stem from the book the movie is based on; “Pather Panchali” by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, and I am interested enough in this story to put the book on my reading list.

The story is powerful and simple; the struggle to survive while being the poorest in the village and the breadwinner is more of a dreamer than an earner. The women have little recourse but to accept his decisions.


I am glad to have seen this movie, and I would not mind seeing it again. I will try to find the time to see the two following movies in the Apu trilogy; “Aparajito” and “The world of Apu”.


I would recommend this movie to anyone. It is a difficult story to watch at times, but there is also a lot of joy over being a child and playing.

Over to you

If you’ve recently seen “Song of the little road” or you’re watching along with my year of movies, please leave a comment below with your thoughts on the movie or note down your opinion somewhere else.

50 movies down. 315 to go.

If you want to get “Pather Panchali” from Amazon (with English subtitles), here is a link for that. They only have the movie as part of the whole trilogy about Apu, but that might not be the worst idea. They probably have the movie many other places too. Maybe it’s on a streaming service you subscribe to already?

Tomorrow’s movie is “The shining”. Get some more information about this movie and the other movies on my watch list this week on the upcoming movies page. If you’re new to this site and are wondering why I’m watching a movie every day for a year, read more about my experiment.

Until next time; live long and prosper.

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