‘Variety’ picks this Indian film among the 100 greatest films of all time

'Variety' picks this Indian film among the best films
Image Source: IANS ‘Variety’ picks this Indian film among the best films

Satyajit Ray’s neo-realist classic, ‘Pather Panchali’ is the only Indian film to feature in 117-year-old ‘Variety’ magazine’s first ‘100 Greatest Films of All Time’ list.

The list is significant because it has been put together by over 30 editors and writers from the magazine that invented the term ‘showbiz’. They include London-based international executive editor Manori Raveendran and RajinikanthBiographer and ‘Variety’ contributor Naman Ramachandran.

Topped by Alfred Hitchcock’s slasher masterpiece, ‘Psycho’ (1960), the list’s top five films are followed by ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939), ‘The Godfather’ (1972), ‘Citizen Kane’ (1941) and ‘Pulp Fiction’ ‘ Huh. (1994).

It also includes memorable classics that are on the curriculum of every respected film institution – from Charlie Chaplin’s ‘City Lights’ to ‘Casablanca’, ‘The Rules of the Game’, ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, ‘All About Eve’ , ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and ‘Seven Samurai’.

What makes the list a collector’s item is that it provides a link to a review done by ‘Variety’ at the time of release of each of the included films, ranging from the Ann Bancroft-Dustin Hoffman classic ‘The Graduate’ to No. 1. 100, for genre-defining sci-fi films such as ‘Alien’ (1979), Steven Spielberg’s ‘ET the Extra-Terrestrial’ (1982) the second ‘Star Wars’ film, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ (1980) and Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968), ‘Gone with the Wind’ (1939), ‘Silence of the Lambs’ (1991), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), King Kong (1933), ‘My for the blockbusters Best Friend’s Wedding’ (1997) and the James Bond film ‘Goldfinger’ (1964),

It also includes memorable classics (listed in ascending order) that are now required on the curriculum of all respected film institutions – from Charlie Chaplin’s ‘City Lights’ (1931) to ‘Casablanca’ (1942), ‘The Rules of the Game’ ( 1942), ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ (1952), ‘All About Eve’ (1950), ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (1946) and ‘Seven Samurai’ (1954).

In their comment on why they included ‘Pather Panchali’ (Rank No. 55), the jury said: “Long before Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’, there was Satyajit Ray’s masterfully paced and structured Apu Trilogy, which was the beginning of what was to come.” The holy pinnacle of all the chapters was the old stories.

“Restrained but universally relevant, the Bengali filmmaker’s debut is the first of three films that put Indian cinema on the international art-house map. Like a regional riff on Italian neorealism, the inherently humanist ‘Pather ‘Panchali’ is both a loving film, a portrait of mostly matriarchal upbringing and an awe-inspiring vision of rural life, as reflected through the impressionable eyes of its young protagonist.

“The film’s adorable images include chasing a passing train and playing in the monsoon, which add up to a purifying and soul-nourishing experience.”

In his time, Vibhuti was a little-known star in Ray’s film, based on Bhushan Bandyopadhyay’s 1929 novel of the same name and produced on a shoestring budget by the West Bengal government. It won the 1955 National Award for Best Film and was named Best Human Document at Cannes in 1956.

At the time, ‘Variety’ commented: “The film … poetically and lyrically unfolds a tender yet touching tale of aging in India, a land of poverty but also of spiritual hope. Two teenagers, one boy and her sister, grew up in this environment. The film combines all aspects of picture making into a moving totality that shows India directly to Western audiences for the first time.

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“The treatment of old age is one of the most profound treatments ever seen on screen. An old woman lives and dies with dignity and beauty among budding children that counteract the growth and experiences of children. Acting, lensing and other All aspects are skillfully arranged by Ray in a document on life in India.”

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