Koimoi Recommends Two: Cinema has forever been a reflection of society with the good and bad that follows. The mode of rebellion or raising voice for everyone is subjective. Some chose to go all-out pointing fingers, while a few intellects brilliantly put forth their opinions symbolically. Satyajit Ray, a man who understood what being a have not in any part of the world means, and why they deserve to be shown on the big screen, did everything he could to bring them there.
In 1964, Ray made a short film titled Two, which to date stands to be one of his most prolific works, but did not get the audience it deserves. The short talks about lack of empathy, socio-economic divide, class divide, happiness, and the human tendency to drag the other down. All of this with no dialogues and just two kids in the frame. Today on Koimoi Recommends, I recommend you Satyajit Ray’s masterclass of putting forth a point in the most simplistic yet powerful manner.
Director: Satyajit Ray
Available On: YouTube
Two features 2 boys, both 8-9 years old. The film opens with a rich boy waving goodbye to his parents, who leave him home alone for some time. The boy walks through his plush bungalow room after room and relishes the gifts and balloons from his birthday party that happened last night. Suddenly he hears the sound of a flute and discovers it is being played by a boy who lives in a hut on the grassland behind his mansion. Soon begins a competition between the two of showing off their toys and what follows is the catharsis of human nature.
Satyajit Ray made Two for Esso World Theatre’ — a cultural programme telecast by the non-profit government-funded television programming distributor in America named the PBS (Public Broadcasting Service). He was told to make a films set in the Bengali landscape but in English language. Turned out the filmmaker was not in sync with the trajectory, so he decided to go completely silent with his film. Go back and read what I said about rebellion!
Two on the face of it is 2 kids fighting with each other to show the prominence they have. But in the messaging, it is the game of power. It is the war of egos, it is a WAR. Some say Ray was moved by the Vietnamese war in this period and the short was his opinion of the same. But even if not that particular war, the short film has much more to talk about the human nature through kids.
For the poor kid, it is about passing time and playing with the minimum resource he has. For the rich, it is the other way round. Resources are in abundance, and he is spoiled with choices. But what the rich brat lacks is freedom and the zest to hustle. Every single time the poor child stands back with another toy, for the rich one it is his clue to destroy the happiness of the other. The oppression always comes from the powerful, so the poor can only mend and use his resources thoughtfully, while only the rich can have a sense of destruction.
But all of these are the emotions in the adults too. But Satyajit Ray never lets these kids shed off their innocence. Even in the rich brat, it does lurk somewhere. His primary concern of jealousy is not the toys the poor has, clearly not, since he has costlier and more attractive ones than him. The concern is his freedom. The freedom to open sky. The freedom to be aspirational, the freedom to create resources. And the rich manages to kill the poor’s option, but never succeeds in breaking his will power, and resilience to stand tall and happy.
Two might have been made on the niche Indian grounds, but like all of Satyajit Ray’s gems is a universal story. The oppression of the have nots, the strength in their hustle, the abundance of resources with the rich, their greed for more and even the habit of snatching. He talks about everything. As for war, he shows how a thing as silly as showing off begins it and ends when the castle of at least one is destructed. But does that break the backbone of the one who loses. Watch two for it.
One thing I would want to address is how the filmmaker in a span as limited as 12 minutes has managed to include the children psychology with the aforementioned things too. While the defeated kid sits and plays his flute in the sweetest of the notes, the winner is alone and his toys (read privileges here) crash one by one. Another cryptic ode to the war. The background score and music both designed by the master himself will haunt you at this point.
I can go on and on. You must watch Two if you haven’t already. Satyajit Ray needs to be celebrated each day, because the wave of empathy towards humans, is an emotion introduced to us in Cinema by him. The Oscars Archive have restored the short for you, now it is your turn to pay respects to the legend.
Watch Two right here:
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