With the Kahaani franchise and the short film Ahalya, Sujoy Ghosh is on his way to becoming the modern-day Vijay Anand. With ‘Kahaani’, he delivered the almost-perfect thriller that kept the audience hooked till the end and even on repeat viewings, one can tell that the tiniest details in the film had a purpose to serve. The second film not so much. But Sujoy Ghosh isn’t a director who sticks to the same formula over and over again and his short film ‘Ahalya’ was a fine example of the same.
With ‘Anukul’, Ghosh attempts to make a short film that conveys its meaning through gestures instead of dialogues. Here, the subtext supersedes the verbality and therein lies the beauty.
Adapted from Satyajit Ray’s story of the same name, Anukul is the story of a man who hires a robot-human for his daily chores. The robot looks like a human, acts like one and at times even thinks like one but in the race between technology and ‘dil’, the humans will always have an upper hand.
The Black Mirror-esque plot was first written by Satyajit Ray. Ray was a visionary and so it doesn’t come as a surprise that a man with such intellect could conceive a story that feels futuristic even in 2017. It must have looked like utter fiction back when he wrote it but probably he could conceive this as human kind’s future.
The film begins with Nikunj (Saurabh Shukla) trying to buy a technological product and inquiring about its functionality. The audience is slowly let into this universe and we’re told that the product he’s buying is actually a human-android who can be employed as a house-keeper. We are told that there are no overtime charges and he doesn’t even take any weekends off. Who wouldn’t want a robot of this nature? The film is set in a dystopian future that maintains its realism by way of showcasing the surroundings as we know them today, but futuristic it is. The android-humans are starting to take over all kinds of jobs that earlier employed humans. Of course, they are robots who don’t take any weekends off. Who wouldn’t hire them? The social unrest against the robots is rising. There are protests being held against them by the humans but it feels like an inevitable change that is taking over the society. In many ways, this feels like the beginning of the industrial revolution. The change that was here to stay but wasn’t welcomed by our kind.
Anukul, the android, (played by Parambrata Chattopadhyay) is an innocent looking ‘man’, who loves to read and is fascinated by the collection of books at his employer’s house. His machine doesn’t sleep and so he spends all his free time reading. But his reading isn’t just mechanical, he knows how to interpret and that makes him better than most humans. Anukul and Nikunj’s conversations feel like a student-teacher relationship. Their discussion over The Gita and Dharma is well-utilised and serves the larger plot as well.
The film’s core lies in the constant battle between man and machine. The unavoidable changes that are beyond one’s control can either be accepted whole-heartedly because, in the end, only one can emerge as the winner. The android machines can be manipulated because a man’s capacity to think, interpret and feel will exceed the robot’s, or that’s what we think right now, but resisting a change that is much larger than all of us is like living in a fool’s paradise.
Sujoy Ghosh utilises every second of this 21-minute film to his advantage and adds value by giving a story arc to his three lead characters, Nikunj, Anukul and Ratan (played by Kharaj Mukherjee). The two human characters are as flawed as the rest of us and the android, though a machine, doesn’t feel stuck to his robotic ways. His constant evolution in the short film gives the audience an insight into what the future could hold for this universe.
With actors of such calibre, it comes as no surprise that they are perfectionists at their jobs. Their nuanced approach towards every scene makes one notice their gestures that convey all the meaning.
The short film makes one think about the possibilities that are on the verge of becoming a reality and Ghosh’s haunting tone in some parts of the film leaves you with an eerie feeling. It makes one wonder that if this is the future we’re actively stepping into, then the race for survival is going to turn even more brutal but only for those who are not willing to welcome it.