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Cinestaan Curates: Anukul is a contemplation on ethics in an increasingly mechanized world


Sujoy Ghosh's short film is based on a short story by Satyajit Ray and leaves one with a sense of foreboding.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

In the current lockdown scenario, where we are seeing an increased dependency on machines, Sujoy Ghosh's short film makes one think about the consequences and possibilities of artificial intelligence and its limits, if any.

Satyajit Ray’s short story Anukul, adapted by Ghosh into a short film, depicts a futuristic world where robots have become common and, as many fear, are fast replacing humans at the workplace. One such robot is Anukul (Parambrata Chatterjee), who comes into the home of his master Nikunj (Saurabh Shukla) to serve him. Interested in reading books and curious about a world that he does not fully understand, Anukul develops an easy rapport with his employer.

However, Nikunj’s brother Ratan (Kharaj Mukherjee) is extremely upset that his brother has been insensitive enough to bring home a robot when he has been rendered jobless by these very machines. Ratan manhandles Anukul, leading Nikunj to realize that even though Anukul is a machine, it does have certain rights.

When Nikunj faces the same fate as his brother and loses his job to a machine, he contemplates letting go of Anukul owing to a lack of income. But fate has other plans and Nikunj finds the robot to be the perfect companion.

The short film throws up many concerns which bears testimony to the craft of Ray whose story is woven with intricate questions about the interaction between man and machine and what it really means to be human.

Not only is Anukul programmed for unquestioning servility, he is also made to adapt according to the ethics, principles and worldview of his owner. Nikunj, in turn, finds himself teaching Anukul about god, dharma (duty), truth and to what extent one can go to do what is right. All of this shapes Anukul’s understanding of the human world and he takes the action that he thinks is right, or rather what humans have him believe is right.

Ghosh makes it a point to use the calibre of his actors who deliver understated, nuanced performances in a script that escapes black and white definitions to explore the grey spaces, ultimately leaving us with a sense of foreboding. Watch Anukul here:

 

 

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Cinestaan Curates