The best binge watch of the year award most definitely belongs to Apu! Or more precisely, The Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray. I’ve been to see all three segments at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Rose Cinemas over the last three days and it’s been such a treat. This new copy is on a world tour, so maybe you will be as lucky as I was and can see it on the big screen, too? Spin the wheel of fortune here.
I was expecting an Indian The 400 Blows, and there are some similarities but it’s so much better. It’s a newly restored copy as the originals of the film were badly scorched in a fire. I don’t even know how one would go about doing this, but they rehydrated the film, repaired it, and released this amazing remastered version recently thanks to Janus Films and the Criterion Collection. It was my first time seeing the whole thing and my first time with a film at a seemingly 4:3 aspect ratio (square-ish, not the usual oblong rectangular frames).
The stories are beautiful and tragic and triumphant all at once and follow Apu from birth through adulthood in three segments: Pather Panchali (adorable small Apu with Snuffaluffagus-length eyelashes), Aparajito (mid-size, studious/slightly rebellious Apu) and Apur Sansar (grown-up, existential Apu). It has strong themes of resilience, friendship, and curiosity. Ravi Shankar did the music. It’s all in Bengali with subtitles (which I didn’t need to rely on the whole time, pleasant surprise!). It made my heart just ache for Bangladesh, I can’t even tell you….Satyajit Ray so beautifully captured the feathery fields, ubiquitous koloshes, riverside vistas, floppy-leaved water lilies, yummy khichuri, oil lamplit evenings, wonderful people, general vibe and so much more.
You’re going to spend about six hours with Apu, and I think you should really go for it. Really do it….watch all three with a nice lungi wrapped around you to keep out the frigid fingers of cinema air conditioning and smuggle in a little thermos of chai to warm you even further. I add a bay leaf and some fresh grated ginger to mine and prepare it by boiling the tea with some water, milk, and honey. It should be poured and enjoyed in these glasses because why only take it 80% of the way there? A shortbread cookie or two might also be just the thing to have the most comfy, perfect experience. I’m awfully partial to this recipe, and I think, though a departure from a classic nonta biscuit, it would make for a delicious arranged marriage in your mouth (I couldn’t resist, thank you for indulging me).
La shona tova and bhalo thakben….sk