Avijatrik, the Bengali film which takes forward the story of Apu from Satyajit Ray’s critically acclaimed Apu Trilogy (1955-1959), premiered on Tuesday at the 26th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF).
Directed by Subhrajit Mitra, the film stars Arjun Chakrabarty as Apu, and features Sabyasachi Chakrabarty, Ditipriya Roy, and Sreelekha Mitra in prominent roles. Produced by Gaurang Films, the film is presented by National Award-winning filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar. The film’s music has been composed by Pandit Bickram Ghosh.
While the film is competing at the Competition on Indian Language’s Films in KIFF this year, it has been selected for the Indian Panorama section for the 51st International Film Festival of India.
Talking about the film after its screening to a packed auditorium, Mitra said he wanted to show how Apu’s life comes full circle and continue the story from where Ray left off in Apur Sansar, which was the last film of the Apu Trilogy.
“The Apu Trilogy is like a Bible, more like the grammar for film students and filmmakers. While reading Aparajito [the novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay on which Apur Sansar is based on], I realised that no film was made on the last 100-150 pages, which talk about how Apu bonds with his son, Kajol. Avijatrik is my attempt to highlight the last few chapters of the novel,” Mitra told media persons after the film’s screening.
In the Apu Trilogy, music played an essential part and was composed by late sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar. Elaborating on his experience on creating the film’s background score, Ghosh said that his experience of playing along with Pandit Shankar as his then-student helped him in this project.
“Pandit Ravi Shankar is my guru and I’ve played with him for 12 years. It was challenging to take off from where he left off. I put my career on the line with this film… While I had to continue Pandit Ravi Shankar’s legacy through the music, I also had to add my own stamp to it. It was a tightrope walk,” Ghosh told Silverscreen India.
Despite the challenges, Ghosh said his validation came in the form of an appreciative Facebook post by Pandit Shankar’s wife, who wrote a note about Ghosh’s music in the film after watching the film’s teaser.
“Pure classical score is very rare in film music. In this film, however, the entire score consists of classical music created by sitar, sarod, flute, a bit of string section, and the rest is folk music. There is much more of music in this film than there is in all the three films of the trilogy,” Ghosh added.
The music score in the opening title sequence of Avijatrik is played by Pandit Shankar’s daughter and sitar player, Anoushka Shankar, as a tribute to her father’s composition from Pather Panchali.
Talking about his portrayal of Apu, which was immortalised by late veteran actor Soumitra Chatterjee, Arjun Chakraborty said he did not face much difficulty while slipping into the character of Apu.
“I tried not to think of the baggage that the role brings. I tried to keep that thought down, but not all the time. It is always concerning to think what the audience might think of me. My director wanted me to bring to the table what was uniquely my own, he did not want me to copy anyone. My director did not want a carbon copy of any other actor, and only asked me to follow the script,” he said.
The producers of the black-and-white film are keen to release it in theatres before making it available on OTT platforms. The film’s theatrical release was initially set to take place in early 2020, but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant nationwide pandemic.