When reflecting, it is often important, even essential, to acknowledge the loved ones around us who have sacrificed their own happiness for our wellbeing or dreams. Aparajito, the second instalment in the Apu trilogy, muses on that supremely well. Apu (Smaran Ghosal) is away to college, but his mother has reservations. It is a parental instinct to worry for their children, but the isolation felt by Sarbojaya (Karuna Banerjee) feel selfish and inflict guilt on the budding young college student. A strong family unit may be an idyllic dream for some, but Aparajito makes it clear that the tough times shape a person into who they are.
Moving the Ray family away from their tranquil, rural setting, Aparajito is not just an adaptation of family strife, but of adapting to a new world too. The hustle and bustle of the busy streets do not appear to overwhelm the Ray family, but it is worlds away from what they were born with. Apu’s coming of age sees him adapt better than Sarbojaya, who seemingly struggles with this new style of living. The city attitudes don’t suit her, but it’s one of the many angles director Satyajit Ray takes in displaying the divide between old and young. To leave the nest is only natural, and as Apu soars into a difficult but rewarding experience, his mother is anguished by her loss of familial, self-preservation.
Fears of abandonment are only natural, but when a family is so closely knit, it is clear to see the implications and impact moving out may have. There’s a deeply personal relationship to be found when experiencing the dynamic between Apu and Sarbojaya. That remarkable bond between mother and son is not the only draw. Possessing the ability to harbour so many intricate feelings and detailed minute emotions, Ray inflicts desire and trust on a family that, until this moment, was closer than ever. They are still close, but the difficulty of distance and the crossed wires break their relationship. Banerjee and Ghosal display this intimately and with a masterful understanding of their characters. They are far freer here, as Ray takes liberty with the adapted text, far more than he did with Pather Panchali.
There is an understanding throughout Aparajito that there are universal truths for every family. No matter how strained or striking the bond is, there will always be worry or animosity from the decisions made by an individual. Impact or not, there are significant, bold movements displayed by Ray. He tears down the sweet sensations of a happy family, instead of showing a relationship fraught with worry and doubt, not just from the older generation, but the younger too. Aparajito strikes up the uncomfortable touches of family life but reminds us all too often that they are all we have, and we should cherish them as much as we can. Ray’s representation of how important family can be resonates so well and so frequently throughout this feature.