Magazine 2017
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Sharmila Jajodia  
Women, the equal participant in the formation of society, constitute the half population of the world but  
have been marginalized since time immemorial throughout in almost all societies and cultures due to the  
dominance of their male counterpart, varied social and cultural practices and biased attitude of women  
towards the disadvantaged woman. This marginalization has aptly drawn attention of artists from various  
fields including literature and cinema. Therefore the thinkers from various fields have always been concerned  
about the status of women in Indian society. They have always raised questions about the gender  
discrimination, girl child marriage, role of women in decision making within and outside the home and  
the inhuman treatment given to widows in the society. In the light of following observations, this article  
tries to analyse thestatus of women in “Pather Panchali” (1955), the most famous classic film of none  
other than the great Bengali film maker Satyajit Ray [(based on the novel by the same title written by the  
well known Bengali novelist Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay (Banerji)]. It is artiste Ray’s debut direction  
and an internationally awarded classic film released in post independent India (on 26 August 1955 in  
Calcutta cinema house) which gave Indian cinema a reputed status on world map.  
Keywords : Discrimination, gender, Indian, marginalization, mindset, socialization, woman  
Research Paper  
The most famous classic film”Pather Panchali (Song of the Road)” is a touching story of woman’s marginalization  
in the male dominated Indian society as it depicts the poor plight of widows, gender discrimination and  
woman’s sidelined role as a decision maker prevalent in the families in the backdrop of utter poverty of a  
Bengali Brahmin family. It also makes an attempt to focus on how the psycho-social philosophy of our immediate  
surroundings caused by the mindsets of men and woman and vice–versa i.e. the mindsets created by the  
philosophyand psychology of socialization process gives a U turn not to the lives of a single woman or a family  
but the whole society.  
The film depicts the sufferings of Ray family, in pre-independent India in the backdrop of casteism. The family  
consists of Mr. Harihar, a priest and the head of the family; his wife Sharbojaya, a home maker; their two  
children – Durga, the daughter and Apu, the son; and Indir Auntie, an old widowed distant relative of Harihar.  
The film is a symbolic representation of the difficulties faced by Indian women in various stages of life i.e.  
childhood through Durga, adult / middle age through Sharbojaya, and old age and widowhood through Indir  
auntie. The story revolves around these female characters and their haunting presence grabs the attention of  
the audience automatically.  
The film starts with Mrs. Mukherjee worshipping a plant who shouts atDurga for stealing some guavas from her  
orchards. Durga running in a playful mood hides herself behind the tree. She puts a guava for her aunt in her  
utensil as sheshares a good bond with her auntie Indir. Indir is eating baked rice in Durga’s presence but forgets  
to offer her some while Durga looks on. So she wants to offer her a banana and finds the guava kept by Durga.  
She eats the fruit fondly. Sharbojaya is pregnant.Still she goes to the village well to draw water. Mrs. Mukherjee  
accuses her of her bad upbringing of Durga as her daughter is habitual of thieving and taunts that both the  
mother and daughter are same as Sharbojaya has also not returned the loan of five rupees. When Sharbojaya  
returns home, she finds Durga in the company of Indir. She immediately calls Durga though Indir tells that Durga  
doesn’t harm her at all. Sharbojaya quarrels and asks Indir, ‘Why shouldDurga look at you while you eat?’ Indir  
asks Durga to go to her mother. Sharbojaya orders Durga to return those stolen fruits to Mrs. Mukherjee and  
come back and sweep the yard. As Sharbojaya dislikes Indir, so whenever she finds her daughter sitting near to  
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the penniless hunchbacked aunt-in-law, she calls her. Sharbojaya treats Indir like a beggar, may be due to poor  
finances or jealousy, the most natural feminine trait. She never serves food or water to Indir, so the old woman  
has to manage it herself. She even accuses Indir that Durga has learnt thieving from her. She tells Indir that as  
she takes things from kitchen without asking Sharbojaya, so does Durga by picking up fruits from the neighbour’s  
orchards. Thus it is Indir who prompts Durga to steal fruit as Indir eats those fruits with fondness. She also nags  
Indir many times for taking chillies or other food items from kitchen. She says, “You spoil my daughter and I get  
blame for it. I have tolerated you for 8 years. My patience has exhausted. You better go elsewhere.” Indir also  
finds it difficult to tolerate the nagging at such an old age and leaves the house in anger with her bundle of  
ragged clothes, mat and other belongings. As Durga watches her aunt leaving the house, she pulls her aunt’s  
belongings and tries to prevent her but doesn’t succeed. Sharbojaya asks Durga to leave Indir alone. Indir goes  
to the house of Raghu, one of her acquaintances.Durga, the innocent child, also understands that no one cares  
for the old aunt except her. When she meets her aunt on the way, she brings her back home to see the new born  
child, Apu. Indir is happy at the birth of child like others but Sharbojaya doesn’t like her coming and staying  
with them again. Her behavior doesn’t change at all though Indir is seenrocking the cradle. Indir finds it difficult  
to get up as her back is stiff and so requests Harihar to help her to get up. She remarks, “Who cares about an  
old woman?” and shows Harihar her torn and worn out shawl. She even tries to stitch her torn shawl but cannot  
thread the needle even. Raju Gifts Indir a new shawl and Sharbojaya quarrels with Indir and accuses her of  
begging and insulting them. When Indir says that she had demanded it from Harihar, Sharbojaya retorts, “You  
should be ashamed. Would he (Raju) feed you too? Don’t you realize that children often go hungry? If you are  
staying here, stop begging otherwise you go” and throws Indir’s belongings. Indir goes to Raju’s house to stay  
for a few days as she is perturbed with Sharbojaya’s behavior. Durga and Apu go out to search Indir as their  
mother tells them to find the calf. Indir comes back as she is not well and wants to spend her last days at her old  
home but Sharbojaya rejects her saying,”The best thing is to leave.” Indir requests to allow her to rest for a while  
and give some water. Sharbojaya eating her food shows Indir her bowl and suggests Indir to help herself.Indir  
ultimately leaves the house. Later on she is found dead sitting under a tree by Durga and Apu. Durga shakes her  
body and she falls down. Thus she never gets peace but only rejection till her death. The villagers perform the  
last rites. Thus Indir becomes an outsider insider or vice-versa in her own house.  
Durga doesn’t go to school like Apu. Neither of her parents thinks of her studies. Harihar even encourages Apu  
to study. Rather she helps her mother in household tasks like sweeping the floor, looking after Apu and helping  
him to get ready for school, buying food items from market etc. as and when ordered by her mother. Even in  
Apu’s school only boys are seen and the teacher calls them ‘jems’. Sharbojaya snubs Durga for roaming  
around and says, “Is it right to skylark all day?” She should learn to cook, wash and perform religious rites as  
the girls of her age do. She is pulled by hair and beaten by Sharbojaya when Tunu’s mother complains that  
Durga has stolen her beads. Sharbojaya tells Durga to not pick up fruits from Mukherjee’s garden as it is not  
theirs. Sharbojaya realizes that Apu doesn’t eat properly as he gets only rice to eat. Runu is getting married as  
a child. Only males go to watch the stage play. Thus these are the issues which hint at the prevalence of gender  
discrimination in the society.  
Sharbojaya, spends her whole day in struggling to fulfill her responsibilities as a wife, a mother and a woman  
while Harihar struggles to make both ends meet. He is addicted to tobacco smoking despite poor financial  
condition. Though Sharbojaya tells him that they can’t afford to spend on tobacco yet he doesn’t understand.  
They want to celebrate their son’s birthday but they have no money left. As Harihar gets the job offer, so the  
child is considered lucky. They dream of getting a good match for Durga, the two meals a day and new clothes  
for the family twice a year. Harihar fears that anybody can come to know about his job offer, so says to  
Sharbojaya, “You might talk.You know what women are like.”Sharbojaya considers that Harihar can’t judge  
people and is easily betrayed when she comes to know that the landlord Ray hasn’t paid him wages. She  
makes him realize how his orchard has been snatched by Mukherjees but he discloses that his brother owed  
Mukherjees. She tells him that he should demand his wages without delay as Apu needs good food and better  
clothes, the house needs repair and they have to repay the loan (5 rupees of Mrs. Mukherjee).She also informs  
him that how she feels lonely and depressed as living in the house is like living in the forest and she doesn’t have  
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any neighbor to talk. He is also not there always as he has to go out for work. She even suggests that they  
should shift to Benaras as he can earn more there. But Harihar says that as monsoon is over, the repair can wait.  
He is also not willing to leave his ancestral house. He ignores her material and social needs and even her  
suggestions. Harihar does go away for earning his bread with the promise to return in a week. In the meantime,  
it becomes very difficult for Sharbojaya to manage the house. She has to sell the new utensils of the house to  
survive. Five months pass and she doesn’t have any news of her husband. Sharbojaya is distressed at her  
poverty, helplessness and neighbour’s insulting comments. She, being self-respected, doesn’t take help from  
anyone. Harihar’s letter gives her the message that he has earned money and is coming back this month.  
Monsoon arrives and Durga and Apu enjoy the first rain showers. Resultantly Durga is down with fever. Her  
mother applies cold compresses throughout the night but her condition worsens. Due to heavy rain and thunder  
storm, the house crumbles and Durga dies of illness. Harihar returns and inquires about children. Sharbojaya  
remains silent. Harihar shows her the things purchased by him for her and the new saree for Durga. Sharbojaya  
breaks down and discloses the bitter truth. He is also deeply hurt. His worm eaten manuscripts spoil his dream  
of becoming a playwright. He decides to leave his ancestral house and go to Benares permanently for a better  
life though old villagers consider his decision not a wise one and ask him to reconsider it.  
Indir auntie dies shelterless, Sharbojaya’s views are not valued at all and Durga as a child doesn’t get her due  
so women’s position remains pathetic in the film.It authenticates what Simone de Beauvoirhas expressed in her  
book “The Second Sex”, ‘One is not born woman, but becomes a woman’.  
The need of the hour is to bring about a change in our society by changing our minds and resultantly the social  
and cultural practices. The old and widows must get the due respect and place in the family. A woman and a  
wife must be given due space while making decisions and a girl child must get equal place in our hearts and the  
society like a boy otherwise there will be no shortage of women who will be suffering like Indir, Sharbojaya and  
Durga in the Indian society despite the sci-tech advancement.  
To conclude, women who constitute half of the society and contributes in creating the society must not be  
treated marginally at any stage of their life at any cost.  
Reference :  
Ray, Satyajit.dir. Pather Panchali (Song of the Road), prod. Government of the Indian State of West Bengal.  
955. Electronic.  
*Assistant Professor , Department Of English, Ramniranjan Jhunjhunwala College, Ghatkopar (West),