The distresses that Bengal suffered in the 70s from major unemployment was best mirrored in Satyajit Ray’s movies like Jana Aranya (1976). In the same year he wrote a short story named Anukul, which went beyond just projecting those devastating times. It looked way ahead into the situation and hit the spot perfectly. This is what strikes the mind whilst sitting in the present century and watching Sujoy Ghosh’s short film on Ray’s Anukul.
Sponsored by Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short Films, the film was screened at Taj Bengal, Kolkata, with the presence of the director Ghosh and actor Parambrata Chatterjee, recently. “I have grown up watching Ray’s films and reading his short stories, of which Anukul moved me the most.
It is a timeless piece of work as no matter at whatever period one reads it, one is bound to relate. That for me is a classic,” said Ghosh. The story is about a middle aged man named Nikunj Chaturvedi, who teaches Hindi at a school. From Chowringhee Robot Services, he buys a robot named Anukul, who apparently looks no different from a human being.
Anukul loves to read books and can perform any services possible. He looks up to his master as a role model and is quick to pick up on his likes and dislikes. Chatterjee as Anukul, the robot, gave a perfectly balanced performance maintaining flat eyes yet not being totally stiff to express an innocent and sweet appearance.
The story shows how Ray’s mindset worked ahead of even the present times. It centres on the two sides of a relationship between man and machine — one of conflict and one of dependency. It projects how machines like the robots are eating away the livelihoods of men thus creating scarcity of jobs.
On the other hand, it shows the friendly relationship between man and robot like the one that is shared by Nikunj and Anukul, which goes beyond just mechanical services and reaches an emotional level. From the very beginning the story moves at a fast pace and like an ideal short film, grips the audience at once. It also deals with the deeper and complicated philosophies that guide us in life, hitting our belief systems, which is not an easy thing to do in a span of 20 minutes. This is where Ghosh’s work deserves applause.
Reading the Gita, Anukul comes up with some queries to which even Nikunj fumbles to find the right answers. Anukul feels confused at the fact that because He is a God, Lord Krishna remains immortal even after drinking poison. “I will also never die,” says Anukul.
The question that how is a robot different from God then, strikes the mind. Anukul asks that if it was the duty of Arjuna to fight his brothers in the war of Kurukshetra, then what happens to his violating the duty of brotherhood.
After collecting his thoughts for a few seconds, Nikunj manages to reply that duty changes with perspective, but the question still lingers to haunt our minds.