Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 4 (July-Sept 1983) p. 19.


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The Road Revisited:

An Analysis of

Pother Panchali

Meenakshi Mukherjee

IRST PUBLISHED in 1929, Father Panchali was known outside Bengal only after 1956 when a film of the same title, made by Satyajit Ray, based on parts of the original novel won an international award. Perhaps as an indirect result of the excellence of the film, the novel was translated into English1 and French in the sixties. The stature of the original novel by Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay (Banerji), however, is in no way dependent on its celebrated filmic transformation, and its place was secure in the tradition of Bengali fiction long before the film was made.

Father Panchali and its sequel Aparafito (published in 1931) form a two-part bildungsroman tracing the growth of a village boy named Apu. In the first part the world contained in Apu's consciousness expands from the confines of the courtyard of his house and the bamboo grove beyond it to the margins of Apu's village, Nischindipur, and then beyond it to the next village, then to another, and by the end of the volume to Banaras. In the second part, which is larger in scope, the process of expansion of Apu's consciousness continues until he leaves India from the port of Calcutta on a ship bound, for South America. But unlike the familiar bildungsroman which has a linear progression, here the progress follows a pattern of concentric circles. As when a pebble is thrown into water the smaller circles thus caused gradually merge into the larger ones, in Bibhutibhusan^s novel the hero, instead of leaving behind one phase of his life and proceeding to the next, incorporates each phase into the next one and makes a larger inclusive entity.

Journal of Arts and Ideas 19


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