As we celebrate 100 years of Satyajit Ray in 2021, I want to pay an ode to him by talking about the film that introduced me to his cinema, the fable Two. Being a short film with a running time of twelve minutes, having no language barrier and with easy accessibility on YouTube, Two was a great film to begin the journey of exploring his world of cinema.
In 1964, Ray was asked to create a short film for ‘ESSO World Theatre’. He was asked to write the film in English; however, Ray decided to make a movie with no dialogues. Thus came into being Two, a tale about the childlike rivalry between two boys of two different economic strata attempting a one-upmanship by a successive display of toys. Ray also composed the music of this film.
One of the boys comes from a good financial status and has lots of material possessions to keep him entertained and engaged as a child in his mansion. The other lives in a simple house with few toys. The contrast is very evident. Within twelve minutes, this movie says a lot without actually saying a word. It portrays the duality of our society in terms of economics. There are two ways to look at happiness: either through materialistic possessions or genuine enjoyment of sufficiency. And there are two sides to rivalry: it can start off as jealous comparisons but can end up being so bitter that you want to pull the other person down.
The symbolism is so layered and moving, it is pure genius. It touched me when I realised how the boys have been put in two different setups. The rich child is caged in his big house at an elevation, looking down upon the poor one, who is grounded and free. It is a striking observation by Ray that privilege is so deep rooted, it definitely impacts the children but unfortunately leads them to advocate their privilege as well. I noted that the rich child is constantly trying to find something to keep him busy whereas the poor child just wants to enjoy himself. Which brings me to talk about how empathetic I felt towards the rich child in the beginning because he is alone in this huge house.
I could understand how difficult it is for a single child to be all by themselves. Also, when he decided to bring out his toy as a response to seeing the other child play the flute, I was hoping that they would play together. It bothered me when I saw the rich child getting nastily competitive to the extent that he was jealous enough to shoot down a kite. The detail of showing the poor child pull back his kite and take it with him shows how unaffected he was by all the negativity. He chose not to stoop down to the level of the rich child. In the end, when we hear the sound of the flute again over the sound of his toys, it conveys how his happiness won over the rich child’s empty privilege. When the toy tower falls down it was probably symbolic of how the poor child managed to defeat the rich kid because he is truly happy and content with whatever he has. Thus, in a short span of time Ray managed to touch upon many aspects and to affect the viewers deeply.
The performances were convincing: I was furious at the rich child for ruining the other child’s happiness. The expressions are so impactful that they manage to convey unsaid things. Ray’s music changes with situations: it’s slower in the beginning but gets upbeat when we see the competitiveness between the two.
Two tells us that the one who is genuinely rich is that person who can continue be themselves in their pursuit of happiness even when others are trying to snatch that away from them out of jealousy.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.