The first time I saw it I liked the grey morality of the father figure. The second time, in 2017, my appreciation extended to all the major characters. The amateur actors do very well and religious faith takes the place realism requires. It’s a good deal more representative of a marginal modern (in the broad sense) life in India than, for instance, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (1997).
More ambitious, but it is not for the better. There isn’t much to the story, puberty is ignored and Apu’s joy of scientific discovery is undercut by the African savage game in blackface. The change in casting for Apu as a young adult is too abrupt, while his mother looks too young even as she lay dying. Live action is not a good medium for this sort of thing. The attempt to bend live action toward a dreamlike mode is spoiled by too many dissolving cuts, so shoddily executed they overexposed the negative.