I was in class fifth or sixth, I do not exactly remember, when my father Shri Ranjit Kapoor took me to FICCI to see a package of seven Akira Kurosawa films. Not that I could get the nuances r depth of the films of Kurosawa that I saw but I did realize that this is something big, grand on the big screen. Something that is awe inspiring. But the memory that has stayed with me and is very precious to me is not about going to a movie theatre to watch a film but when my father brought a copy of Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali and showed us at home. At that time my brother was small, but I was so moved by the film that I broke down. Even my father was surprised that how could a child of ten-eleven years be so moved by a film?
The reason for that was that Pather Panchali was very close to my real-life situation. My brother and I were very close to each other, much like Durga and Apu. I was like a mother to her, every day I would wait for him to come after school in the road and then we would walk to home talking about God knows what, we don’t even remember now what did we talked about. But we used to enjoy that walk back home and look forward to it.
Our family was of very humble means back then, as is the case with almost every theatre person, just like Durga’s family in the film. How our mother managed to run the household, she only knows. If papa got some advance for a play, we would celebrate a festival or else we would be often broke!!! For one whole week I would think of Pather Panchali and break down, whether at home or in school and I would catch hold of anyone and narrate the story of the film! Apu-Durga relationship was etched in my heart, and I used to wonder what will happen to my brother if I die just like Durga?
The result is that since then I have not had the courage to see Pather Panchali again, as I don’t want to relive those memories. Those moments are very close to my heart, but I do not want to experience them again.
Pather Panchali, its visuals, its characters and its scenes are etched in my mind. Towards the end when Apu opens that umbrella, he in a second matures after his sister’s death. It has been thirty-five years since I saw the film but Pather Panchali still haunts me! That grief was my father’s gift to me at that age.
Grusha Kapoor is a Mumbai based film & television actor.