Neorealism on Ray’s Work

To understand the overall influence of neorealism on Ray’s work, it is important to consider the economic and social state of Italy after the Second World War. The country was in ruins economically and moral turmoil was rampant. Most neorealistic filmmakers made efforts to capture the post-war effects by producing realistic films. The aim of producers such as Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti and Roberto Rossellini was to make their films as real as possible. To achieve their realism objectives, the producers had to refrain from personalizing their films. Instead, they shot their work in natural locations as a way of representing the reality on the ground. In realism films, producers do not have time to embellish simple tasks (Bordwell 2012). Similarly, most of the scenes in Pather Panchali are simple and natural, devoid of the producer’s input. In contrast, the directors in most Bollywood films expend great efforts to make sure that each scene and part is as elaborate as possible. Consequently, Ray’s film appears as a documentary, which is the antithesis of what one may find in modern Bollywood films.

In most neorealism movies, Italian directors have a tradition of depicting the time of each scene or task (Fabe 2014). A significant example of this aspect of neorealism is evident in a scene in Vittorio De Sica’s neorealism film, The Bicycle Thief , in which a maid is grinding coffee (Fabe 2014). Majority of filmmakers, including the traditional Bollywood directors, do not portray the time of each scene or task in their movies or the length of time it takes to accomplish such tasks. However, Italian neo-realists believed that the beauty of everyday life lies in its sulky and humdrum nature (Vasudevan 2012). By incorporating the element of time in their movies, the directors made viewers appreciate the aspect of simplicity. Ray extensively adopts the indoctrination of time in his movie. There are timed long shorts in his work, which is unusual in the context of Bollywood movie industry. In particular, there are numerous scenes in which Ray ascribes long periods of time to focus on simple and routine activities of the poor Bengali family. One particular instance of a long focus is the train scene in which Durga gazes at the power line for exactly seventeen seconds before shifting his eyesight onto the tracks. In addition, there is no indication that the characters have telephones, which is indicative of the significant social divide between the rich and poor Indians. However, even if this aspect should be straightforward to viewers, Ray spends a significant amount of time to allow the audience to develop a natural course by refraining from providing a running commentary. In other words, there is no dialogue, which is one of the most compelling features in neorealism films.