By Sneha Roychoudhury
Edited by Nandini Bhatia, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
“The war dragged on for two more solitary years and every day we performed our blood-soaked calculus. Every day we decided who lived and who dies and every day we helped the Allies to victories and nobody knew… All victories that would not have been possible without the intelligence we supplied. When people talk about the War as this epic battle between civilisations, freedom versus tyranny, democracy versus Nazism, armies of millions bleating into the ground, fleets of ships weighing down the oceans, planes dropping bombs from the sky until they have obliterated the sun itself- the war wasn’t like that for us. For us it was just half-a-dozen crossword enthusiasts in a tiny village in the south of England.
Was I God? No. Because God didn’t win the war. We did.”
- Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, The Imitation Game.
From the outside, The Imitation Game is the story of a man who broke a code to change the course of the world’s largest, most defining war and consequently the face of its future. If one looks closer, though, the lonely, delicate man, invested entirely in a machine he believes can think for itself- can not only be programme but reprogrammed- is very hard to miss. The question then remains- “Are you paying attention?” The context of this questions changes as this engaging narrative trudges in and out of suspense, reality, truth and above all intelligence. The film stands for more things than those that catch the eye at first. This was the enigma that broke The Enigma. This was the war hero never celebrated, the brain never appreciated, the body punished and the soul tortured. This was the story of the unsung Alan Turing.
Drawn with patience, intelligence and careful precision, this 16th January release hit the theatres with a rush of beauty, heartbreak and belief. A restored belief that is generally born from the ashes of hopeless defeat, the kind that is found when all else fails- that is the hope I dug up from under the piles of pain and agony in Turing’s story. Turing’s prosecution, his persecution, the ugly end dealt out to him is not merely a chronicle laid down to testify for human cruelty, bigotry and prejudice. The miles walked by mankind since this hapless act of thoughtless ignorance is certainly noteworthy- laws have changed and so have definitions of “indecency”, apologies, late as they may be, have been made and acceptance has become a more accepted notion. I can almost imagine cynics roll their eyes in absolute disagreement to the content of my article. But something in the despair of Turing’s story lights a candle, something that goes beyond all his suffering to tell the world that the fight is always going to be on, but to every lost battle, there is- in some part of the world, in some distant time- a win.
Cumberbatch’s Turing is poetic, melancholy and heartrending. The genuine genius in the actor’s nuanced portrayal of this eccentric, erratic and yet so brittle figure inspires awe. That simplicity could be so breathtaking, that winning hearts could be so effortless an act of earnestness and that one could come to love a man so real and so flawed are all ideas reaffirmed and fostered by Benedict Cumberbatch’s interpretation of Alan Turing. Every time Turing is shunned, hurt or misunderstood, the audience dies a little, every time he tries to endear himself to his colleagues they melt a little and every time the man states the injustice done to him as if they were mere facts in a mathematically calculated puzzle, they weep a little- tears collected and stored in corked bottles of pent-up frustration and futility. Cumberbatch wills you to think, to hurt, to understand and then leaves you out there- unable to judge, to conclude or to feel. His performance takes a little from you, it pries a chunk of a something you have hidden in you, something you didn’t know existed within you- perhaps the human in the monster we have all become. Keira Knightly (as Joan Clarke) lives up to her stupendous performance while Mathew Goode and Alan Leech slide perfectly into their very suited roles. Delivery and dialogues are nothing but enthralling and the events trace each other in a flawless flow- a rendition of the movie’s ironical depiction of a man wronged and a hero forgotten.
Malice has brought our kind to the hateful, decaying state it has come to today. Malice kills the Alan Turings of the world- the men who design the future, men who define tomorrow. It is easy to hate, to reject and to discard reason, it is frightfully easy to take pleasure in violence and it is as difficult to rise above the odds and create absolute genius. These are the men to be reckoned with, men who are answers to blood-hungry bullies, men who sit in silent huts and assemble unassuming machines- men who take agile leaps into the vast spaces of evolution, carrying the world forward on their mortal shoulders. It is true then that “sometimes it is the people that no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine”.
Sneha Roychoudhury is a student of History with a passion for words and can be best described by the collection of books stacked on her shelves and the little doodles made on tattered ends of these volumes. She dreams, and she protects them in a lexical fortress- some of it built and quite some imagined. Music renders her free and literature entwines her being- each mending the chipped pieces of her imperfect soul. Travel and the written word are her soul mates, the world a box of woes and wonder and the untold stories of the nameless millions her singular passion.