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History Dept | Brooklyn College Library

HIST 3320: The History of Childhood


Pather Panchali (Bengali pronunciation: [pɔtʰer pãtʃali]; transl. Song of the Little Road) is a 1955 Indian Bengali-language drama film written and directed by Satyajit Ray and produced by the Government of West Bengal. It is based on Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay's 1929 Bengali novel of the same name and is Ray's directorial debut. It features Subir Banerjee, Kanu Banerjee, Karuna Banerjee, Uma Dasgupta and Chunibala Devi. The first film in The Apu Trilogy, Pather Panchali depicts the childhood of the protagonist Apu (Subir Banerjee) and his elder sister Durga (Uma Dasgupta) and the harsh village life of their poor family.

Citation: [Aashirya Studios] (2020, Jul. 6) pather panchali|Full COLOR movie|পথের পাঁচালী| Satyajit Ray|Subir Banerjee| Kanu [Video File]. Retrieved from




Discussion Questions

  • Satyajit Ray’s first film, Pather Panchali (Song of the Road), 1955, depicts rural life in late colonial (late nineteenth-early twentieth century) Bengal, India. The story revolves around the little boy Apu; his free-willed older sister Durga; his worried mother, Sarbajaya who, with her husband away, struggled with poverty and societal odds, but held the family together; and the kindly and destitute elderly aunt Indir. Described as a film of “elemental power,” how would you respond to Pather Panchali as a source of understanding an impoverished family, cultural norms, hierarchy, and changing socioeconomic situations in colonial India? 
  • How would you read this film as a source of history? Is it for children? About children? On children? By children? 
  • How would you compare the experience of childhood in India with the other countries that you have read about? 
  • How did the native Indians and the colonial state of imperial Britain attempt to define childhoods in India? How did they use children as an enabling force?
  • How were the experiences of childhood in India inflected by race, class, and gender? Draw examples from the different readings and the film we watched. 

Work to do

Discussion Board (DB) #4 (300-350 words) due on Blackboardblackboard logo, takes you to blackboard page..

  • Based on the readings and the film, reflect on how the experiences of childhood in India were inflected by race, class, and gender. Engage in a discussion with your classmates by exchanging your views on Discussion Board.