As Satyajit Ray's masterpiece Pather Panchali turns 60 on August 26, we re-visit the location where the film was shot. This article was first published in June 2013.
Indians can broadly be classified into two types: those who have seen Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali and those who haven't.
Some of us who grew up on the unputdownable novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay and on Ray's 1955 film based on it, are always drawn towards anything that is even remotely connected to Pather Panchali.
So, when an opportunity came our way recently to visit the village where Pather Panchali was set, we had to go of course.
Boral, a small village on the outskirts of Kolkata, near Garia in South 24 Parganas, was Ray's Nischindipur, the abode of the poverty-stricken couple Harihar Roy, Sarbojaya and their children Apu and Durga.
Image: Uma Das, who plays Durga, in Pather Panchali
Though Bandyopadhyay's novel portrayed Apu aka Apurba Roy as the protagonist, nature in all its intense variety shared equal space with Apu in Ray's film.
Ray faithfully followed Bandyopadhya's lead when he made animals and insects -- cows, dogs, cats, birds, frogs, spiders and slithering snakes -- co-exist with human beings here.
The house that belonged to Apu and Durga
Almost an hour's drive from the heart of Kolkata, Boral is evolving so fast, it will soon become a part of the city itself.
There are high-rises, even condominiums here. The half-pucca buildings that could be seen just a few years ago have made way for multi-storeyed buildings.
Amid the concrete jungle, we found the house belonging to Joygopal Mukherjee, a modest two-storeyed construction where the film was shot.
Unlike Harihar Roy's crumbling home in the film, here stood a structure that was carefully built to withstand the onslaught of time.
Only the unkempt greenery at the back of the house and some bamboo trees sang the saga of Apu and Durga and reminded us of the unforgettable music composed by Pandit Ravi Shankar that added to the film's wonderful ambience.
For a newcomer the place said nothing about Ray unless one traced his marble statue tucked away in a corner of the village.
'The house that you saw in Ray's film was in bad shape'
"The house that you saw in Ray's film was in bad shape," said the owner of the house, Joygopal Mukherjee. "It was becoming impossible to live in such an establishment.
"We would have loved to maintain it as it is but we did not have the money to do so. There was no financial aid from any quarter."
Bela Mukherjee, Joygopal's mother, was a regular face in the crowd that thronged in huge numbers to see Ray shooting the film.
Confined to her bed now, the senior-most member of the Mukherjee household still has memories of those golden days when the towering Ray had chosen their house for the shooting of his debut film.
'I wish the locale of Pather Panchali had somehow retained its vintage tag'
Ray's film director son Sandip too laments the fact that the venue of Pather Panchali now wears a fresh new look.
"It's a pity but what can you do? We are living in an age of change. Everything around us is changing. Modern civilisation demands renovation. The old is giving way for the new.
"However, I wish the locale of Pather Panchali had somehow retained its vintage tag. I am sure it would have made every Indian happy."
'As we grew up, we lost so many things'
Sandip Ray's words of regret were echoed by Tathagata Banerjee, grandson of Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay.
"Such a change is but natural. As we grew up, we lost so many things, including the landscape that surrounded us," Banerjee said.
But he adds practically, "To be honest, I don't think too much importance should be attached to the village where Ray shot his film. The village that my grandfather had painted in his novel -- which Ray immortalised later -- will remain etched in readers' minds for years."
"Therefore, it doesn't matter much to me if that particular house shown in the film has been renovated to keep pace with the changing times," Banerjee said.
'Time decided that the tattered house of Apu and Durga needed a fresh coat of paint'
S N Roy, joint managing director of Mitra and Ghosh, the sole publisher of Pather Panchali the novel, till the copyright of Bandyopadhyay's works expired in 2010, agrees that "you can't defy age."
"It's time that decided that the tattered house of Apu and Durga needed a fresh coat of paint.
"If it hurts the sentiments of those who owe their childhood dreams to Bandyopadhyay's unforgettable creation, they should browse through the book once more or should spend an evening viewing Ray's film."