Reel Caregiving: Glimpses of Caregiving – Android Kunjappan Version 5.25

 

Android Kunjappan Ver 5.25 is an endearing sci-fi Malayalam comedy drama about a son who struggles to take care of his rather stubborn and aging father while he also seeks to build a career for himself. The son faces the dilemma of balancing his responsibility as the primary caregiver for his father and pursuing a lucrative professional opportunity in a leading robotic company in Russia.

Subramanian’s Caregiving Journey

Subramanian is in his mid-30s and he loves his aged father Bhaskaran dearly. His mother passed away in his childhood leaving Subramanian as the primary and only caregiver. Bhaskaran is shown to be very rigid in his ways. Bhaskaran eats food only from his own kitchen and is very old school in his thoughts to the extent the audience can empathize with Subramanian’s challenging caregiving situation.

Subramanian has employed paid caregivers for his father in the past. However, Bhaskaran is even very particular about the ‘caste’ of the home nurse. Those who were employed found it very difficult to deal with the rigid ways of Bhaskaran and left within a few months.

As a result, Subramanian has quit many jobs in big cities over the years to come back to his village in Kerala and take care of his father. However, Bhaskaran is unmoved by his son’s efforts, sacrifices and affection. Subramanian is desperate for a job and life of his own and decides to accept a job offer in a Japanese Robotics company in Russia.

Even while in Russia, Subramanian always feels guilty about leaving his aged father alone. He finds support in his female colleague Hitomi who is of Japanese-Malayali descent. She understands Subramanian’s challenges as she lost her father to Alzheimer’s disease. Guilt ridden Subramanian even talks to his boss about resigning his job and going home. But when Hitomi tells him about a robotic home nurse who helped to take care of her father, Subramanian finds some hope.

During his first trip back home from Russia, Subramanian brings a humanoid to his father which is christened as Kunjappan. Subramanian programs the robot to suit his father’s needs. He is also able to receive regular updates of his father’s health status through the robot’s monitoring while he is in Russia.

The last section of the movie shows that Subramanian is unable to trust the intentions of the robot and fears the safety of his father. He starts dreading that the robot might attack or harm his father. Subramanian realises that Kunjappan ultimately lacks compassion and empathy which is much needed in a caregiver.

His anxiety keeps growing and he comes back to Kerala and deactivates the robot. The movie ends with scenes of Subramanian taking care of his father himself.

 

Android Kunjappan’s Caregiving Journey

When the robot enters Bhaskaran life, he is very reluctant to accept the robot. He is initially even scared of it. But gradually Bhaskaran takes a liking to his new caregiver. The robot is depicted as boyish and adorable little fellow and hence is named ‘Kunjappan’ which translates into ‘short man’ in Malayalam.

Kunjappan is well equipped with artificial intelligence to understand Bhaskaran’s needs and is able to deliver it very well. He is also able to match Bhaskaran’s social need to communicate and responds to Bhaskaran’s talks. Slowly the relationship between two goes to the next level as a pseudo father-son relationship. Kunjappan takes care of Bhaskaran’s daily needs like bathing, cleaning and administering medicines on time.

Being a machine, he is also able to monitor his health status periodically. Kunjappan is a good companion as Bhaskaran gets comfortable to talk about details of his own intimate love story with Kunjappan. Kunjappan also keeps Bhaskaran engaged by introducing him to social media and playing chess.  However, he is not familiar with the emotional side of caregiving and technology is not able to program that into him. The movie raises the question if any machine can ever fulfil the basic human need for love and care.

 

Journey of Bhaskaran as the Care-Recipient

Bhaskaran Poduval is described as a rigid aged person who wants his home to be in a particular way. He detests the smallest changes in his house or his life. His wife is no more and he wants his son, Subramanian, to find a job near their village so that his son will continue to stay with him. He feels highly insecure at the thought of his son moving away but does not openly demonstrate it.

He becomes emotionally helpless when he realises that his son wishes to pursue a career abroad. He is in a dilemma as he does not want his son to go but he is also reluctant to come in the way of his career goals. Bhaskaran is also very tough with the home nurses who are appointed to take care of him in his son’s absence and they are forced to quit.

When Subramanian brings a robot as a caregiver, he is initially very hesitant but grows very fond of the little machine over time. He finds a good companion in Kunjappan who hears all that Bhaskaran talks about. Bhaskaran even shares his feelings about the woman he loved dearly with Kunjappan. Bhaskaran gets support with his daily chores and even enjoys the robot’s company to his local outings. Bhaskaran slowly starts treating Kunjappan like his own son. There is a beautiful scene where Kunjappan returns home wet from the rains and Bhaskaran dries the robot’s head with a towel as if it were his real child. He finds comfort and safety in the presence of Kunjappan.

When Subramanian returns from Russia and deactivates the robot, Bhaskaran is devastated at the separation from the robot. However, he gradually picks himself and spends his days with his son by his side.

Review contributed by Minakshi Iyer

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