I recently read somewhere that the first principle a writer should remember while narrating a story is - "Show, don't tell". One can write volumes explaining how the character feels, but nothing is as powerful as conjuring up the image of the character and his surroundings in the reader's head, making him a part of the narrative, getting him to think and judge for himself.
But doing it in cinema? There are too many distractions, if one may put it that way - the music, the colours, the costumes - all force the director's vision/ imagination into the viewer's head. Detachment is easy in such a situation. So, to elicit emotions, Indian cinema uses melodrama to great effect - people crying, gore on screen, dialogues drenched in emotion, songs to illustrate the agony of the separated hearts, the high pitched tones of the shehnai. A director will use it all, Unless of course, he is a genius.
Watched Pather Panchali till late last night. The last time I watched it, I was way too young and way too naive to perceive the depth of each character. Now, older, and obviously more exposed to average-tending-to-bad movies, I realized how well Ray used the aforementioned principle brillantly and that too in a difficult medium. Images come and go, without being overbearing. Minutes on end are spent in silence, where one is left alone to explore the emotions, study the evolution of the characters. Emotions are presented sans melodrama, understated, almost matter of factly.
Genius, I tell you.