What Dark Secrets Did "Zwigato" Reveal To Nandita Das In "Man vs. Algorithm"

What Dark Secrets Did "Zwigato" Reveal To Nandita Das In "Man vs. Algorithm"

Modern Times, a film by Charlie Chaplin, has been in theatres for 87 years. The satirical dark comedy movie followed a factory worker as he battled the Great Depression while trying to live in the contemporary, industrialised society. The only thing that seems to have changed is the methods used to abuse employees.

Yet because gig workers aren't full-time employees and lack the benefits and stability that come with a regular employment, their working circumstances are far worse.

The new movie "Zwigato" by actress-filmmaker Nandita Das portrays the tale of a gig worker who works for the named food delivery business. Nandita told IANS that she and her publisher friend Samir Patil had a conversation about the rising unemployment rate and the difficulty of gig work when the concept for the movie first began to take shape.

"We then started creating a short film depicting a day in the life of a delivery rider," the director recalled. The CEO of Applause Entertainment, Sameer (Nair), who was going to produce it, then pushed me to extend it into a full picture. At first, I didn't think the topic would fully engross me, but as I dug in, I found myself fascinated to the human side of this collision between modern technology and the lives of the employees, who are only cogs in the machine.

With the dawn of high-speed Internet and the internet, the gig economy has been in operation as various types of freelance work have proliferated since the turn of the twenty-first century. Services like Zomato, Swiggy, and Dunzo have improved people's lives while also boosting India's Economy.

To feed people or assist them with transit and delivery of their products, numerous delivery partners and taxi drivers weave through the streets of Indian cities each and every day. Despite the circumstances—inclement weather, heavy traffic, holidays—the gig economy in India operates without fail.

The individuals who operate this technology, however, are shown in a different light when seen at a microscopic level since, in contrast to machines, people experience everyday wear and tear as well as struggles with worry, mental strain, and financial uncertainties.

The conflict between man and algorithms has replaced the one between man and machines, as shown by Chaplin in "Modern Times," according to Nandita. So, "Zwigato" is a narrative about the relentlessness of life, but it does have a bright side.

"We consumers were more and more reliant on gig workers throughout the epidemic for our own convenience and less and less cognizant of their difficulties. We all placed orders during COVID-19, but we seldom remembered to thank, rate, or even recognise them. Although this served as the catalyst, "Zwigato" is also about our normalised gender, class, and caste inequalities.

All of them discreetly appear in the movie, bringing the hidden into the light. And a lot of credit for incorporating these ideas into the story goes to Nandita for her thorough study. The research for the movie took the crew two years. The more the mind brews the main data, the merrier is the outcome.

Nandita said, "Before the movie even started, I knew just as little about the world of incentives and algorithms as my protagonist did! I continued to learn more about the gig economy, which interested and concerned me as I did so. By interviewing a large number of riders, we acquired data as well as individual tales. Their tribulations, conundrums, worries, and goals gave me a deep understanding of their world.

Nandita and her colleagues also conducted confidential interviews with top managers in the analytics divisions of food delivery applications as well as ex-employees of meal delivery services.

"These discussions helped us comprehend the modifications made to the software and algorithms as well as the reasoning behind them. It was crucial to comprehend how the gig economy operates, even if not everything was included in the movie, according to Nandita.

"I was shocked to learn that a modest adjustment to the size of the 'zone' from which orders may originate—the unseen button that we all press—has a significant impact on them.

"The more money the riders must spend on petrol, the farther distant the delivery are. They pay a gasoline tax when they leave their zone but not when they come back, and this is true everywhere in the globe, not just in India.

When asked why she decided to use a television icon like Kapil Sharma in such a compassionate subject, the director said that her instincts were what led her to make that choice. "I found Kapil to be natural, unfettered, and open, so casting him was not an exercise of daring. While I had never seen his programme, he seemed genuine and appropriate for my character Manas in the snippet I had seen.

"I contacted him impulsively because I wasn't sure whether he would be the perfect choice for the role or if he would be interested in taking part in the movie. He answered right away. We also realised right away that we wanted to collaborate when we initially met. Eventually, after several meetings and practise sessions, I was persuaded that he would precisely capture the essence of the average guy, who he was no longer in real life, Nandita told IANS.

In this instance, she said, there were no restrictions on working with a celebrity. "Casting is incredibly important in a film. The audience will follow the characters on their adventures if they are realistic, which requires a leap of faith on their part. Looking the part is truly 50 per cent of casting. Hence, it had no bearing on my freedom. Also, doing something new from what Kapil had been doing was thrilling and in no way constricting.

The greatest worry Nandita had was "not being able to take away his (Kapil's) Punjabiness," but Kapil was up for the task.

She explained how they handled the language of the role by saying, "I provided him all his talks in the Jharkhand accent, recorded by a guy in Ranchi, in the proper dialect. I didn't want the accent to be too strong, in any case. Along with doing so, Kapil also talked much more slowly—more like an Easterner than like a Punjabi racer.

Empathy is the central theme of Nandita's film, and she thinks it is terrible that empathy is not usually something that is taught to us when we are young.

"Some of us were lucky enough to grow up in an atmosphere that was more empathic, and we learnt by seeing how our parents, friends, and other people showed empathy. We are likely to care less about others if our culture gets more consumerist and individualistic, she added.

Yet, I think that most people want to be compassionate, and when they see a movie like "Zwigato," it arouses something within of them and fosters a feeling of empathy for the characters, Nandita said on a hopeful note. That is generally how people have responded, and there is nothing that makes me happier than realising that my film's purpose is being understood by viewers.

Right now, "Zwigato" is showing in theatres.