Android Kunjappan- The Son Robo
Android Kunjappan-A movie that strikes a chord with the Elder Community-Review on Elder Care Perspective
Indian cinema has come up with lots of movies based on the struggles of elders, portraying their loneliness when neglected and left alone by their children. This is one of the major social issues prevalent across the world. In comparison with the western world, the issue was relatively subtle in India due to the so-called close-knit family fabric. As and when the society is pacing towards economic development the issue is slowly popping up especially in the upper strata of the society. Priorities change. Family ties get loose - the result being a highly insecure social environment for the elders.
The Kerala State Award-winning movie Android Kunjappan narrates the tale of a father-son duo and the struggles they come across in their life. The son, a Robotic Engineer, is compelled to leave his father with a Robot that is programmed to take care of his father’s needs. He is left with no other option. His mother died in his childhood, and he is forced to make a choice between his father and his highly promising career in an internationally acclaimed robotic company. The father represents millions of those middle-class Indian elders who are left alone in their final innings of life.
The son represents the not-so-small group of educated and qualified youth who in spite of their love and concern for their parents are compelled to leave them alone for their career growth and prospects. The character of the elder person played by celebrated actor Suraj clearly exhibits the emotional trauma when he comes to know that his son is going to leave him alone and go abroad. He burst out his frustrations when his son tries to hire some untrained home nurse who eventually becomes a burden on his father. The father is caught in a dilemma as he does not want his son to leave him but also hesitate to stop him from achieving his career goals.
All these are the struggle which every elder person goes through in such a situation. The sad part is that it always remains subdued in the innermost layers of their mind without even being noticed by anybody including their children. Either their ego or their selfless love for their children becomes the primary reason for this. Solitude, frustration, helplessness, agony, and suffering becomes their only companions for the rest of their life. Mostly their life ends up like this. It's apparently unfair on their part spending their whole life for the upbringing of their children and then being left alone in this darkness of solitude and suffering. But it was their dream to see their children in the heights of career growth and that was the only reason for them to live and they can’t possibly become a hindrance to it.
Coming back into the movie, Mr. Baskaran, the character of an elder person played in the movie initially finds it difficult to acknowledge the presence of a Robot that his son sends from his company. The robot equipped with artificial intelligence can understand the specific needs of the individual and deliver appropriate care matching the skills of any human being or even better, emotional intelligence being an exception. We can see the needs of an elder person clearly portrayed in the movie. As we know the most important thing which an elder need is love and care from his loved ones. The robot is programmed to deliver care at its best but is sure to fail when it comes to love as love is a human affair. But within a few days, Mr Baskaran accommodates him in his life.
His second most important need, the social needs, the need to communicate with someone dominates his priorities. He starts talking to the robot and the robot responds. This takes their relationship to the next level. The robot becomes his best companion and is fondly called Kunjappan. He is no longer able to differentiate between a human and robot. He starts behaving to the robot-like his own kid. The robot takes care of all his needs including assistance in day-to-day life including bathing feeding, medications, and monitoring of his health. His son can have access to his health status regularly through the robot. The robot helps him in connecting with the external world through social media. The job description programmed for the robot exactly matches the international standards laid down for elder care management. He starts sharing his most intimate feelings to the robot including his crush for a Girl which happened during his younger days . He feels more comfortable and safe in the company of the robot. At one point he gets so much emotionally attached to the robot that he starts believing that it is his own child.
This is an important lesson for any care giver working in elder care. Elders need a companion to speak to, someone they can share their thoughts and feelings. The robot is programmed to undertake these tasks. At the same time, a human caregiver can add colors to the life of the elder by adding compassion to the care which the robot will never be able to. The movie ends with the robot being deactivated and trashed by his son due to a potential threat to the life of his father due to an accident taking place.
Mr Bhaskaran is devastated by this incident and loses his senses. He is not able to bear the pain of losing the robot. The movie ends with his son joining him and bringing him back to normal life and taking care of him for the rest of his life. This also stresses the importance of the role played by the family especially the children for the elders.
This movie is an eye-opener for us. It’s our responsibility to take care of our parents. Even if you don’t have an option, never leave them at the hands of incompetent people. Maids and cooks are trained to undertake kitchen chores. It is like leaving the intensive care unit at the hands of housekeeping staff. Be with them as far as you can. What they need most are your love and care. If the situation demands, leave your parents at the hands of professionals who can take care of them on your behalf and be in touch with them regularly. It also highlights the emptiness of older life and the need for enriched interactions, which may be from a robot itself, to feel life again.
Reshmi Brijesh, MPH
The author holds a masters degree in public health & is associated with
Dr Rahuls Elder Care and has years of experience in Public Health and S Social Work.