The Apu Trilogy

The Apu Trilogy (1955 – 1959)

The App Trilogy

The Apu Trilogy is available on Criterion Collection limited edition blu ray.

Satyajit Ray’s epic trilogy is so much more complex than the coming-of-age story at its heart as we follow Apu from childhood to adulthood over three films – Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956) and The World of Apu (1959). The trilogy is based on two Bengali novels by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay and was produced on a shoestring budget over several years, with the final movies almost lost in the mists of time before rescue and restoration.

While the three films are individual masterpieces on their own, they are best experienced as one continuous story. Pather Panchali follows Apu’s early life in rural Bengal with his loving and low-income family. Here we meet Apu in a rundown house with his parents Harihar and Sarbajaya, his older sister Durga and his father’s elderly cousin Indir.

Ray’s opening story focuses on Apu and his sister’s childhood and the simple joys of life. Durga and Apu’s carefree time in their village is beautifully realised as they tease each other and enjoy the village’s attractions, from a performance by a troupe of travelling actors to some sweet treats from the candyman passing through. However, this childhood innocence is also cloaked in poverty and the hard life of each adult.


Pather Panchali is an ocean of iconic imagery and stunning cinematography. Possibly the most iconic scenes of the film come as our young siblings run away from home to catch a glimpse of the train they hear every night but never see. Here, Ray wraps the unveiling of an unknown world into a subtle metaphor, a simple but powerful image that also works as a collision of two worlds, modern vs rural and familiar vs mysterious. This becomes an overarching analogy for the trilogy as Apu’s life constantly and inevitably changes due to both direct and indirect forces.

Pather Panchali ends as the family move to the city of Benares following two tragic deaths. This leads to Apu’s slow acclimatisation to city life in the second film, Aparajito. Here, Ray focuses on the generational gap and dissonance between the adolescent Apu and his mother. While all three films explore Bengali traditions and culture, the scenes between Apu and his mum are universal in construct, transcending the time and place of Ray’s films while speaking directly to global adolescent experiences. Here Apu’s mum is faced with the inevitable and harsh reality that all parents must endure; her son is growing up and craving his independence free from her guidance.

The App Trilogy
The Apu Trilogy is available on Criterion Collection limited edition blu ray.

Our third film, The World of Apu, explores Apu’s adult life in 1940s Calcutta. Here, Ray initially concentrates on the hardships of unemployment before shifting focus to newfound love, partnership, and tragedy. Apu and his wife, Aparna, meet by chance and only marry due to their circumstances, but while they may start their marriage as strangers, the couple soon falls in love. Family is the central motif all three films are built on, as Ray explores a complex tapestry of relationships before deconstructing and rebuilding each one.

In the final instalment, Apu is forced to accept the adult world surrounding him through a series of losses that allows him to reevaluate his life and look ahead. This is the final chapter of the coming-of-age process as the child, and the teen disappears into the mists of time – the adult world and all its inequality, challenge, hope and wonder laid out before him.


Taking a different approach to India’s trademark Bollywood films, The Apu Trilogy would follow Italian Neorealism while giving birth to a new style of Indian filmmaking. Ray’s masterful and lyrical style would embrace an amateur cast and crew in a stunning directorial debut that transcends cultures, history and geography. The Apu Trilogy celebrates life in all its complexity and is a love letter to the human spirit. It is an intense yet intimate portrait of the journey from childhood to adulthood that remains a cinematic work of art.

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