Director: Satyajit Ray
Writer: Satyajit Ray
Cinematographer: Subrata Mitra
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
I was blown away by how similar Apu was to my own college experience and many other people I know; where you begin to take the studies seriously, preparing you for what a career will be like upon graduation. I recall a drive with my dad as I was explaining how stressed I was about my second to last semester’s finals, with my dad telling me that I’d be surprised how much free time I’d actually had upon looking back. It wasn’t to diminish the commitment to my schoolwork, so much as to try and explain that I should appreciate the time college often offers, as it will fade fast and you will long for the experience, possibly regretting taking it far too seriously at the expense of experiencing new things.
Of course, as I saw with my own cousin just as I had entered the workforce, you’re often caught up in the puerile belief that your parents just don’t understand, all while trying to take life more seriously. Apu gets so wrapped up in his studies that he forgets what’s important. For all his intelligence he fails to empathize or understand his parents. Like many, he assumes that they’ll be around forever. But just as his father passed after he went back out with his friends, he lost his mother all too soon. The selfishness that many experience during their early to mid twenties is a fascinating moment to reflect upon. And it’s only now as I’ve entered my thirties that I’m closer to grasping what family and friends mean, and how important it is to strike a balance between your own ambitions and the important people in your life.
The world always feels smaller after I watch a Satyajit Ray film. To think that a Bengali film from the 1950s connects more to my own experiences than most other American coming of age films shows Ray’s ability to penetrate into the universal human emotions that we all experience. I know my own mother was sad when I went to college. I recall the tears when they finally left me in my dorm, and how similar it all was when I finally took off for Los Angeles, with them fully grasping that I was not returning any time soon, and that our moments together would now be reserved for bi-annual visits and vacations. It’s films like this that can unite us all.
Having finished the memoir "Novel Without a Name" and admiring author Dương Thu Hương’s ability to portray the North Vietnamese experience as not all that different from the American soldier’s, I wish more people could watch these types of films or read these stories. Rather than seeing foreigners, or even our enemies, as “The Other”, we could see that we all experience the same emotions - loss, selfishness, taking family for granted. To think that something as simple as language or politics can lead to such hate and destruction is tragic to contemplate. It’s stories like this that would show much unites us all. It all sounds so cheesy, but when so many are so quick to judge what’s different rather than what’s similar, and with the older I get the more I’m learning and discovering this fact, I can’t help but feel myself changing. As David Foster Wallace mentions in This is Water, we just don’t know what the other people are experiencing around us. Perhaps it’s better to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they have their own troubles and dreams and frustrations, and that they’re probably not all that different from our own.
BELOW: A beautiful cut upon the passing of Apu's father. It cuts out the seconds before, so just imagine an old man lying in bed as fireworks ignite outside his window.
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