This Day in History (16-Aug-1958) – Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, wins the Top Five Awards at the Vancouver Film Festival

Pather Panchali, which means “Song of the Little Road”, is a Bengali film directed by legendary Indian film maker, Satyajit Ray. The film is based on a Bengali novel by the same name written by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay. Since Ray was tight on funds, he roped in relatively inexperienced cast and crew, some of the actors  had no previous acting experience. Due to financial challanges, it took Ray three years to complete the film. After the film was made, Ray maintained that three miracles saved the film, the first that Apu’s voice did not break, Durga did not grow older and Indir Thakrun (who played the character of an elderly aunt) did not die. This film marked the debut of the film’s technical team, cinematographer Subrata Mitra had never used a movie camera before and Ray had never directed a film before this. The music of the film was composed by sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar, who was at the early stages of his career then.

Pather Panchali was part one of the Apu Triology and was followed by two more films, Aparajito (The Unvanquished) and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) which follow Apu’s life as an adult. These three films are today among the greatest films of all times and is considered one of the best film trilogies ever to be made. Pather Panchali won the National Film Award for Best Film and the National Award for Best Feature Film in Bengali in India in 1955,  the Vatican Award in Rome in 1956, the Golden Carbao Award in Manila in 1956,  the Golden Gate for Best Director and Golden Gate for Best Picture at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1957, the Best Film and Feature Length Motion Picture at the Vancouver Film Festival and also the Critics’ award for Best Film at the Stratford Film Festival in Canada in 1958 & awards for Best Foreign Film in the United States and Japan in 1958 and 1966 respectively. In the USA, Pather Panchali played at the 5th Avenue Playhouse for a record 36 weeks  in 1958, breaking the previous record. In 1992, twenty-four days before his death, Ray was awarded an Honourary Oscar, which he accepted while being bedridden in a seriously ill condition. Ray was the first Indian to be honoured with such an award.



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