Tuesday, November 17, 2009

When ambition goes awry

" Company Limited” is on three films that Satyajit Ray made on the effects of big city life on an individual. The effects are mostly negative and this film studies how naked and ruthless ambition can erode a man’s moral and ethical character. Needless to say, this sort of temptation to get ahead of your fellow rival is something that is innate to man, but perhaps the tendency and the temptation to “keep up with the Jones” is stronger in the cities where Jones is more often your colleague sitting across the table.

So, Shyamal, a middle ranking officer in a Kolkata based company making ceiling fans aspires to become a Director on the Board. But there are other aspirants too and one of them has a relative on the Board already and so Shyamal has to play his cards really well. Observing all this is his sister in law, who idealizes her brother in law and is in awe of him. Shyamal too dotes on her and is thrilled when he learns that she is coming to visit and stay with them for a while.

When all is going well, comes the bad news. A consignment of fans meant for export has been found to be defective and has to be recalled. This is a crippling setback because as per the terms with the contractor, any delays would render the deal null and void. After studying the fine print, Shyamal discovers the loop hole. If production were to be halted due to a “force majeure”, something beyond his immediate control, then the company is not liable for damages.

Shyamal moves further to exploit this loophole. In collaboration with a labor union leader, he engineers unrest in the factory – not a difficult thing to do in Bengal at the best of times. An explosion occurs and a faithful watchman dies and in the midst of the chaos, the company declares a lock out shutting down the factory for a time. Everyone is happy or so it seems. The labor union get some of their demands met as a quid pro quo, the company is not required to pay any damages due to the delayed shipment and of course Shyamal gets his promotion as a reward.

Shyamal’s adoring sister in law sees her idol fall from the pedestal; but more importantly Shyamal sees himself fall from in his eyes. It is said that when you fall in the esteem of others, you can with effort rise back again, but when you have fallen in your own esteem, it is an inestimably difficult task to brush aside the debris and rise again from where you fell.

The film shows what ambition can do to you ; transform you from a gentle soul into a insensitive , callous and charming intriguer , who has no regret or remorse even if people are killed as part of the plot to go further in life and career. And the indifference and annonynimity of the city only fuels this dehumanization.

Change happens slowly; and often like Shyamal’s sister in law; it is often the people we betray who detect the earliest signs of our change and decay.

1 comment:

Winnowed said...

Hi! Good review. I remember seeing this movie decades ago on DD. One minor quibble - the watchman does not die. He is only injured (at least initially) and Shyamal or the Company sends a bouquet to his hospital room. Did the watchman die later? I don't remember that bit.