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The World of Apu (February 24/04)

Satyajit Ray's Apu trilogy comes to a close with The World of Apu, an installment that effectively concludes this story.

When we meet Apu (now played by Soumitra Chatterjee), he's living alone in a Calcutta apartment trying to make it as a writer. His friend, Pulu (Swapan Mukherjee), invites him to a marriage ceremony in a nearby village; though he's initially reluctant, Apu decides to attend. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as Apu initially sees it), the groom has a terrible case of cold feet and as the bride's family believes it's bad luck not to get married on one's wedding day, they ask Apu if he wouldn't mind marrying her. Apu agrees, and takes his new bride, Aparna (Sharmila Tagore), to his apartment. Though Aparna is understandably dismayed by this arrangement, she eventually comes to love Apu - and vice versa.

The World of Apu moves at the same methodical pace that Ray established with Pather Panchali and Aparajito, the first two films in this trilogy. This undeniably affords the viewer the opportunity to really get to know the characters - primarily, of course, Apu - but also makes it difficult to ever become completely engrossed in the story. Though Ray does a fantastic job of creating a very specific atmosphere, the deliberate manner in which the story unfolds proves to be more of a hindrance than anything else.

What the film does have going for it, then, is a sense of universality that most viewers can relate to. Given that Apu has been developing as a character for two films prior to this one, he's become a figure that it's virtually impossible not to root for. His marriage to Aparna, despite the rocky beginning, seems as though it's finally going to bring the character some happiness and peace. When things don't turn out exactly the way Apu might've liked, the audience feels just as disappointed as he does.

The acting is much better than it was in the first film, which suffered from occasional instances of amateurishness. Chatterjee convincingly becomes Apu, retaining some of the more obvious characteristics that the previous actors imbued the figure with. The only major new character is Tagore's Aparna, and the actress effectively insinuates herself into the story.

With the Apu trilogy coming to a close, it's obvious that one three-hour film would've been preferable to this trio of overlong movies. Still, there's no denying that there are a lot of powerful moments to be found in these films.

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