With every step taken towards accepting virtual reality & AI by breaking the physical barriers, are the links that connect humans themselves emotionally, getting broken in the process too?
In a world where technology and digitisation has become an indispensable part of our daily lives, wherein not a single day passes by without immersing oneself into the world of digital media and getting attached to it so much so, that we’re oblivious to what’s happening in the real world & to our fellow human beings. We hang on to our own narrower sense of idealistic world in the form of digitalised/ virtual media for gratification and adulation to the extent, that we start disregarding the presence of the actual human beings around us including, our own family members.
Bhaskaran Poduval, an aged gentleman is a resident of Payyanur village in Kannur Dist of Kerala. In the peaceful village, his days are spent starting from the morning ablutions in the village ‘kavu’(pond), to reading a newspaper delivered by the local vendor on the porch, a daily visit to the temple and finally, cleaning & cooking for himself.
With each passing day, as age is catching up upon him, he becomes anxious about his well-being in the future. His son Subramanyam a.k.a ‘Chuppan’, an engineer aspires to go to Russia upon receiving a job offer in a Japanese Robotics firm based in Russia. However he’s not easily let by his father who insists upon Hist staying with him in his he village and look after his health. Bhaskara, being reluctant to even leave his village & live with his son abroad, Chuppan is out in a fix.
Finally, after making arrangements for a caretaker to assist his father, with much reluctance, he leaves for Russia where eventually he happens to meet his Japanese colleague- Hitomi who happens to have Malayali roots and is able to speak a fair bit of Malayalam with a heavy accent, much to Chuppan’s bewilderment.
The two get along well with each other but Chuppan isn’t yet relieved off his troubles back home, owing to the continuous updates of his father’s predicaments pertaining to old-age ailments & the tantrums that the caretakers have to put up with.
Chuppan, having expertise in electronics & robotics, hits upon a brainwave of designing a robot that can act as a caretaker with automated messages / commands feeded in it, doing a variety of tasks mechanically discarding any human error. With the help of Hitomi and support from his robot-manufacturing firm, they successfully design an android robot. Pinning his hopes onto his robot that it might deliver to his father’s satisfaction, Chuppan flies down to Kerala & arrives at his hometown…but only to be met with disappointment that his father outrightly rejected the very presence of the ugly ‘metal-scrap’.
With passing time, Bhaskaran, realising that the caretakers employed are up to no good, & that, the robot left by Chuppan is the only alternative for his daily struggles in doing all the chores by himself and getting over his loneliness, slowly & gradually, he develops a liking for the robot to the extent that he treats it as a fellow human.
But for a robot to be treated as human or a ‘Yanthra Manushan’ should it not at least appear somewhat as a human? contemplates Bhaskaran if he has to take the robot out for many purposes viz going to the temple, shopping at the local market, visit to the pond for a bath…& also to avoid the odd gaze of the onlookers & their pestering behind his back. So how better is it to become a part of the village and it’s mileu by getting dressed like one & having its name rechristened as ‘Kunjappan’ (the little one)! So here’s our robot a.k.a Kunjappan in his new ‘avatar’
As of life was breathed afresh into a metal body consisting of bolts and nuts, Bhaskara treats Kunjappan no less than his son…probably more so as a companion for life! Right from serving food, to chopping the vegetables and displaying the ‘e-paper’ oh his metallic body, Kunjappan does all that is expected from an ideal caretaker.
Interesting development take place when Bhaskaran uses Kunjappan to stalk people’s profiles & gather information especially that of a lady who’s a widower in his neighbourhood whom Bhaskaran has feelings for.
With the passage of time, Bhaskaran gets attached to Kunjappan so much so that, he doesn’t feel the need of anyone else in his life …including his own son Chuppan which is evident in the scene when Bhaskaran behaves indifferently to his own son’s arrival with his Japanese partner . This irks Chuppan & realised that going by his father’s mannerisms & attitude, his robot Kunjappan is on the verge of replacing him.
Things start moving towards the tipping point, when localites & police suspect the robot to be spying and views it as a threat to the public & start raising objections. Then comes the issue where Chuppan is forced by his firm to retire Kunjappan as it is nearing its testing period and runs the risk of harming the owner… but Bhaskaran is unwilling to let it go at any cost.
What lies in store for our dear Kunjappan who is in the midst of so many hassles- a senior owner whose attachment to it has left it out of bounds for anyone including his own son & creator Chuppan & for Chuppan himself, he has the onerous task of getting the robot out of his father’s clutches whose senility & trust issues has made him loose his senses to the extent of disowning his own biological son!
Android Kunjappan is that perfect family film that has all the elements essential to give one, a feeling of satisfaction of having watched the movie. The film being set in a rustic / rural environment, quite naturally portrays the mileu of the place w.r.t the sensibilities and t he mannerism of the localites. The film depicts the contrasting circumstances that prevail in the present society wherein humans, inspite of living in the age where cutting-edge technology is right at the tip of their fingers, still persist with their rigid beliefs. This is elucidated in the scenes where Kunjappan calls out Bhaskaran to be a hypocrite for his casteist mentality.
There are scenes where one can see the clash between modernity and conservativity which is shown in an amusing but subtle manner such as the one in which Bhaskaran takes Kunjappan to the local jyotisha for knowing about his fortune wherein Kunjappan is required to provide his details such as date of birth, time, Sun-sign etc & Kunjappan, on being denied entry in a temple for being a robot or rather a ‘non-Hindu’ starts playing an audio of Bhagvadhgeetha on the screen of his metallic body. These are the scenes which touch upon the important aspects and issues of the contemporary society & leave an imprint on the viewer’s mind.
The film which primarily revolves around the robot ‘Kunjappan’ doesn’t present itself as an out-and-out Sci-Fi film by not delving too much into the technicalities involved into the making of the robot and neither does it have the feel of a typical Sci-Fi genre without much of VFX/ Special effects which is understandably justifiable considering the budget constraints & the scope of the script…but would have personally liked the filmmaker to have just given a brief glimpse of the part where Chuppan (Soubin Shahir) designs the robot, considering that the robot is of a very advanced model which can also speak Malayalam…But nevertheless, all leads were given appropriate screen and no one character appears to be underrepresented.
Fortunately, the film doesn’t fall upon excessive emotional effects in depicting the relationship between the son and the father & neither does it appear too preachy while conveying the good’ol message of taking care of one’s parents in their old age. One needs to take note that the Bhaskaran’s son- Chuppan is shown as a loving and caring son who always wishes for his father’s well being even though he has his own aspirations in his life. Even after creating a robot for his father & leaving it with him, never is it shown that the son isn’t bothered any longer for his father since he is always checking upon him and also visits him to ensure everything’s going fine. Through this, we come to know that the storyline doesn’t fall upon the clichéd depiction of ‘uncaring , self-centred children who neglect their parents for pursuing their own aspirations’.
Suraj Venjaramoodu, a veteran of Mollywood and a national-award winner, who played the character of the senile man ‘Bhaskaran’ has done a phenomenal job & words of appreciation least suffice for the efforts he has taken to get into the character.
The expressions on his face and his body language reflecting candidness & the sarcastic and witty dialogues are the things one should watch out for!
Lest should one forget to acknowledge the equally impressive performance of Soubin Shahir who plays the role of Subramanyam/ Chuppan. Soubin, from the past few years has established himself in Mollywood through critically-acclaimed performances in ‘Kumbhlangi Nights’ and ‘Sudani From Nigeria’ to name a few.
Kendy Zirdo who is shown as Soubin’s Japanese colleague and also his love-interest & puts up a very convincing performance & complements well with Soubin.
And of course, how can we take away the credit from the little man- Suraj Thelakkadu who acted as the robot in the film. An adorable performance one must admit for a character which is the central- figure of the movie around which all the events take place & is constantly in the centre of attention.
Ratheesh Poduval, the director of Android Kunjappan strikes gold in his directorial debut.
Film: Android Kunjappan Version 5.25
Director: Ratheesh Poduval
Cast: Sooraj Venjaramoodu, Soubin Shahir, Kendy Zirdo, Suraj Thelakkadu