Winner of the 1957 Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Aparajito (Bengali – The Unvanquished) is the unplanned follow-up to Pather Panchali and forms the second of The Apu Trilogy, such was the commercial and critical success of the earlier film.

Aparajito starts where the family has moved to Varanasi following the death of Apu’s sister and continue to live in penury. But the father dies unexpectedly, forcing Apu and his mother, Sarbajaya (Karuna Bannerjee – Pather Panchali, Headmaster), to return to rural Bengal as servants to a wealthy family.

As with its prequel, Aparajito is achingly beautiful and continues director Satjayit Ray’s exploration of the everyday universal struggles of life, death and tragedy. Apu (Smaran Ghosal) leaves for Calcutta to pursue his education, distancing himself from his roots and, controversially at the time, his mother.

It’s an almost flawless continuation of Pather Panchali. A narrative of time and place, as Apu moves on following the years of sacrifice made by his mother, Aparajito may not reach the heights of Ray’s first feature, but it’s a deeply moving, evocative stand alone of a film.

Rating: 79%

‘Pather Panchali’

The debut feature of Indian filmmaker Satjayit Ray (Aparajitu, Seemabaddha), Pather Panchali is regarded as one of the greatest films in world cinema.

Three years in the making due to budgetary constraints, the 1955 film, adapted from the semi-autobiographical novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, features non-professional actors in its exploration of a small rural family living in penury in West Bengal. Having returned to the ancestral home, a small compound on the edge of the village, the family eke out survival on the scant earnings of the father as a priest and writer.

Focussing primarily on the two children of the family – Apu and his elder sister, Durga – Pather Panchali is achingly beautiful in its deeply-felt humanity and honest realism. Shot in high-contrast black and white with a soundtrack provided by the then little-known Ravi Shankar, the film mirrors its Italian Neorealist contemporaries as it looks to the everyday universal struggles of life, death and tragedy.

Rating: 90%

‘Hotel Mumbai’

The harrowing events of the coordinated terrorist attack on multiple targets across Mumbai in 2008 form the basis of Anthony Maras’ feature film debut.

The luxurious Taj Mahal Hotel, where terrorists controlled the corridors for four days killing more than 30 people, was the highest profile target. And it is here that Maras focuses his occasionally gripping, predominantly bland, factional telling. Like many disaster films of old with large casts, it’s the lack of characterisation that’s the problem. Dev Patel (Lion, Slumdog Millionaire) as staff member Arjun is the film’s mainstay but with Armie Hammer, Jason Isaacs, Nazanin Boniadi and Carmen Duncan as guests, their stories need to be told – along with time spent with the (admittedly gripping) rampaging terrorists stalking the hotel.

Hotel Mumbai certainly has its moments, but in terms of a tribute to victims and survivors, it falls somewhat short as excess of killings and violence outweigh any attempt at a message.

Rating: 53%

‘The Crow’s Egg’

30-x-40-eng-cSimple, charming, endearing – two young brothers strut the streets of Chennai to earn the money to taste pizza.

Very much in the ilk of the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire – appealing young cast, catchy soundtrack, succeeding in the face of adversity as the two boys scavenge the few rupees and overcome the many hurdles it will take to achieve their goal. The first film of writer/director M Manikandan is a slight film that only touches the surface of numerous serious issues but there’s no denying the heart at its core.

And as with Danny Boyle’s feature, it’s the kids who carry the day.

Rating: 69%