Tuesday, February 22, 2022

The Apu Trilogy: The Conclusions

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The Apu Trilogy is the greatest film trilogy ever made.

Apologies to The Godfather, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings series.

The three films that comprise the Apu Trilogy: Pather Panchali, Aparajito and Apur Sansar, each in themselves are absolute masterpieces. Each film allows us to focus on one figure at three distinct points in his life: as a child, as a young adult and as a young man. In each of these points, Apu faces great personal loss: his sister, his parents, his wife and temporarily his son. Yet, he endures, aware of the sadness in life but also the joy in life. 

This is what makes the Apu Trilogy work so brilliantly: its universality. These are shared experiences that every single one of us will have. The loss of those we love is unavoidable. We see the evolution of Apu through these griefs as well as his resilience. Even in the darkest moments, there is still light. The final shots of Apu carrying his son to a new home inspires hope, inspires a sense that they will have a bright, joyful future.

That sense of quiet optimism grounds the films. In each of them, they end on a new journey, where new adventures await them. 

I am ashamed to think that I am making the Apu Trilogy a catalog of misery. Far from it: Satyajit Ray's films also show us the joy of life, of discovering ourselves. Apu finds joy in mischief and learning, in love and fatherhood. Apu is bright, inquisitive, and hopeful. Dreaming of a life far from that which might have been preordained, he pushes onwards. Rather than focus on the sadness of death, the Apu Trilogy highlights that spirit of perseverance, of acceptance and of the thrill of life.

We can see not just ourselves but our families in these films: the hopeful father, worried mother, loving spouse, wild child. As one watches the films, despite the distinctly Indian setting, there is not a character or situation that any person could not either have experienced or seen.

Collectively, the story of our title character is a moving, deep and powerful set chronicling the extraordinary life of an average man. The Apu Trilogy is a reminder that each life matters, that every single person born has value. Beyond the craftsmanship in the films, there is in them a simple truth: we, all of us, have a role in this world. 

We Are Valuable Because We Are.

There can be no greater lesson for all of us to learn about each other and ourselves.

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