Starring: Arjun Chakrabarty, Ayushman Mukherjee, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Ditipriya Roy
Writer-Director: Subhrajit Mitra
One of India’s best-known filmmakers, Satyajit Ray, created the character of Apu for his acclaimed Apu Trilogy of films in the 1950s. Now, 60 years on, Mitra picks up where we leave Apu and find him a widower and who is pining for his beloved wife while learning how best to raise their six-year-old son.
Apurbo/Apu (Arjun Chakrabarty) is on a journey with his son Kajol (Mukherjee), literal and also metaphorical. We meet the father-son duo on a rather mystical train journey en route to Apu’s new assignment as the headteacher of a royal school. It is obvious from the pensive mood that Apu is in that he is struggling to come to terms with this new stationary job prospect.
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The bond between him and his son seems quite visibly strong but still finding its rhythm as they travel together. When Apu gets high fever, the little boy very touchingly insists he is old enough to go to the shops by himself to buy the household essentials. Their only strengthens as their journey progresses, covering a detour stop at Kashi (Varanasi), where they encounter an old adventurer acquaintance (Sabyasachi Chakraborty) who will, unbeknownst to them, change the trajectory of their life.
A trip to Kolkata and then Apu’s ancestral village of Nishchindipur covers the wanderlust of the title, setting the father and son on a path of many more travels and adventures. Will Apu finally be able to say goodbye to his beloved Aparna (Ditipriya Roy), whose apparition has been with them every step of the way?
Mitra’s homage to Ray can only be described as breathtakingly shot. The film’s black and white palette is crucial to this impact, from the mesmerising shots of a deserted railway platform in the interiors of India to the stark landscape of rural Bengal. The backdrop of the Indian independence movement, unfolding in parallel to Apu’s inner own conflicts, is yet another throwback to the genius of Ray.
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The music by Anoushka Shankar, who pays her own homage to father Ravi Shankar’s melodies for the Apu Trilogy, lifts the film to a sublime level. As we traverse through its different chapters, the audience is transported into the world of Apu – something Ray is celebrated for achieving with his iconic filmmaking style.
While ‘Avijatrik’ has already attracted some international acclaim, its UK premiere with the September line-up feels like only the start of a journey akin to its lead protagonist.