Following on from Pather Panchali which left the weary family leaving their ancestral village for Benares, we find them living in relative poverty though Apu is enjoying the pleasure of being able to roam around the sprawling town. His father is continuing to work as a priest by the river Ganges though the money he gets from it never seems to be enough... The mother though happy to have left the village is a bit overwhelmed by the living conditions that leave little privacy from the neighbours...
Using the same actors from Pather Panchali, Ray's second film is sylistically more mature (though many directors would kill to ever exhibit the style displayed in his début) but also slightly more disjointed plot-wise. The film does cover a much larger timespan and changes the lead actor halfway through making it slightly more complex to keep a unity of tone from the performances. That said the film explores with great tenderness and insight the invisible ties that bind a family together and the external pressures that can tear it apart.
Ray's use of symbolism harks back to the first film in the trilogy and many of the allusions will be missed on the casual viewer but attention to detail is always rewarded in Ray's films. The theme of the train, for example, appears in all three films - a symbol of modernisation, a source of seperation and, for some, unwanted changes to old traditions. The image composition is obviously well thought out but manages to avoid being too artificial or over-technical. Though not much actually happens plotwise - one could summarise the movie on the back of a matchbox - the emotional journey portrayed by Ray is complex, dense and compelling making the film a classic of Indian cinema.
The image has again been substantially restored and you can really notice quite dramatic changes in the image quality as soon as a fade-in begins. That said there's quite a bit of noticeable "track damage" - where a faint line appears over one part of the image for a prolonged time. It's not always that easily discernible and I expect they did as much as they could to hide it. Bar some other minor glitches, the image is globally acceptable as long as you take into account the age of the film and the state of the masters they were working from...
Again they are slightly dissapointing - they're usually on time but there's some noticeable lags as well as a bug which may just be limited to my player - for some reason lines in italics remove all 'i's at the start of a line; the same thing happens with 'b's and bold! The same thing did happen on another DVD player I tested it on though it was also a Pioneer. I will try to explore this further and will change the review if this seems to be a rare problem.
The sound is acceptable though frequently displays crackling and hissing though this rarely impinges on the dialogue. Naturally we only get the original mono mix.
We get another excerpt from the BBC's Omnibus on Ray - this time talking about how Aparajito fits in with Pather Panchali and some more biographical details about Ray (watch out for the spoilers though!). Added to this we get production notes by Ray's biographer Andrew Robinson as well as stills from the movies production.
This second DVD in the boxset is substantially similar in quality to Pather Panchali and AE have, with a few complaints, done a good job of it...