Pather Panchali ([pɔt̪ʰer pãtʃali], English: Song of the Little Road) is a 1955 Indian Bengali-language drama film directed by Satyajit Ray (1921–1992) 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.
Production was interrupted because of funding problems and it took nearly three years for the film to be completed. The film was shot mainly on location, had a limited budget,[c] featured mostly amateur actors, and was made by an inexperienced crew. The sitar player Ravi Shankar composed the film's soundtrack and score using classical Indian ragas. Subrata Mitra was in charge of the cinematography while editing was handled by Dulal Dutta. Following its premiere on 3 May 1955 during an exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art, Pather Panchali was released in Calcutta later the same year to an enthusiastic reception. A special screening was attended by the Chief Minister of West Bengal and the Prime Minister of India. Critics have praised its realism, humanity, and soul-stirring qualities while others have called its slow pace a drawback, and some have condemned it for romanticising poverty. Scholars have commented on the film's lyrical quality and realism (influenced by Italian neorealism), its portrayal of the poverty and small delights of daily life, and the use of what the author Darius Cooper has termed the "epiphany of wonder", among other themes.
The tale of Apu's life is continued in the two subsequent installments of Ray's trilogy: Aparajito (The Unvanquished, 1956) and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu, 1959). Pather Panchali is described as a turning point in Indian cinema, as it was among the films that pioneered the Parallel Cinema movement, which espoused authenticity and social realism. The first film from independent India to attract major international critical attention, it won India's National Film Award for Best Feature Film in 1955, the Best Human Document award at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival, and several other awards, establishing Ray as one of the country's most distinguished filmmakers. It is often featured in lists of the greatest films ever made.