Pather Panchali was directed by Satyajit Ray, an Indian film maker who is considered one of the great auteurs of cinema. Mostly shot on location in a village in West Bengal, it was released for the first time in New York at an exhibit at the MoMA in May of 1955 and was billed as ‘The Story of Apu and Durga’. It was later released as ‘Pather Panchali’ or ‘Song of the Little Road’ in India on August 26 the same year. The film is 115 minutes long and is a drama, as opposed to the melodramas with musical interludes (Bollywood) that Indian cinema is so well known for. That is because the style of the film is heavily influenced by the Italian Neo-realism movement that happened after WWII. Instead of showing the beautiful sleek world of movie stars, and that Hollywood look, Ray chose to show the real and not idealized details of everyday domestic village life. He also chose to deal with issues such as poverty, hunger and the caste system, which were not allowed to be filmed, before India gained its independence in 1947, because of strict censorship laws.
Pather Panchali was given a simple budget of Rs 150 000 (about $3000 US) and most of the crew was unexperienced. The cinematographer, Subrata Mitra, had never operated a camera before, and most of the actors were found in the village that they shot in. The making of the film was a struggle, both technically and financially, and Ray, in an interview with Georges Sadoul for Cahier du Cinema even said, “To be able to continue, I sold my library, my art books, my mother’s jewelry and my wife’s.” (Wright 1976: 459)
Even though the film was praised internationally, the government remained suspicious about exporting the film, which might be regarded as harmful to the image of India by showing poverty and similar social problems.