‘Kaala Paani’: How Does Charles Darwin’s ‘Survival Of The Fittest’ Theory Influence The Show?

Kaala Paani, the brand-new Netflix India Original, is a medical drama that speaks to the viewers about how human beings function in times of emergency. It is always a crisis that makes or breaks men. In an hour of distress, human beings end up making decisions that might not be beneficial in the long run. Such choices might be right for a few seconds of gratification, but there will be consequences to these actions in the future. Kaala Paani is all about people trying to contain a worsening epidemic situation in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In that process they make many questionable decisions.

The survival of the fittest is the looming narrative in the show from the start until the end. Charles Darwin’s theory suggests that ‘any living organism best adapted to the environment is more likely to survive and reproduce.’ It implies that anyone who quickly adapts to the new environment will survive, as opposed to someone who does not embrace their surroundings and ends up losing the race. This theory puts every living organism in a race to get acquainted as quickly as possible and does not allow anyone the time to relax and process the new habitat.

Spoilers Ahead

The Survival Of The Fittest And The Epidemic Of 2027

In Kaala Paani, an epidemic breakout is the nucleus of the show, and everyone exposed to it has to breathe that air and hope they do not get infected with LHF-27. This outbreak claimed its first batch of victims very early in the show, as there was no proper medication available for the doctors to administer. Dr. Singh and Dr. Ritu were not allowed to carry out regular checkups on the patients because most of them were confined to the hospital without their consent. This move was ethically wrong, but Dr. Singh had her reasons to do that. Since the victims did not survive, mass deaths at a settlement on the island helped Dr. Singh find the root cause of the outbreak.

Jenkins Lake was contaminated and it was in proximity to the settlement, which caused plenty of deaths. In retrospect, the victims failed the survival of the fittest theory because none were immune to the bacteria that caused flu-like symptoms followed by black rashes on the neck. The deceased were first victims of the current outbreak, and it paved the way for the surviving doctors to begin an investigation and understand cause, effect, and cure.

The Oraka tribes, who were indigenous to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, were always connected to nature and a lot of their activities relied on what they could sense from the trees and animals around them. Lt. Governor Admiral Zibran Qadri had a soft spot for them, and his first point of concern was to protect them from this outbreak as they are not immune to any modern diseases. Many at the hospital, including Dr. Singh, considered this disease to be a variant of Leptospirosis, and their study proved that the last outbreak happened 40 years ago. There is again no report on how that outbreak was curbed because it would have helped the physicians in 2027. There were no survivors then as well, but the doctors should have considered digging deep to find answers about how the older outbreak ceased. Nothing had changed over the years as humans had not evolved to adapt and become immune to this disease. The death rate increased in the current timeline of the show, proving that maybe humans will not pass the test of survival.

The Orakas And The Stories Of The Chosen Ones

The stories in Kaala Paani go back to World War II, as narrated by Basu Uncle, who lives in an abandoned Japanese military bunker. As per his tale, the Japanese soldier reunites with one of their own who was visibly sick. The same soldier mentioned ‘Eraba Reta Mono’, which means ‘the chosen ones’ helped him recover from a deadly disease, and they seem to be immune to the ailment. This eighty-year old story also corroborates the fact that an outbreak of the same kind happened, and yet the Oraka were unaffected by it. The journal left behind by the Japanese soldier also included a picture of healthy-looking Oraka tribesmen. This proved that such outbreaks were regular and claimed the lives of those who could not withstand the bacteria in their bodies. Darwin’s theory of survival perfectly fits as the common link is the Oraka tribe, who seems to be unaffected by these frequent bacterial outbreaks, which includes the current mutation as well.

The second-last episode of Kaala Paani began with a young Oraka tribesman being ostracized for drinking from a water  body that was contaminated by an infected animal’s death. It probably implies that this bacterium emerges from the deaths of certain kind of animals. The said young boy almost died of the symptoms seen in the current batch of patients, but he survived and returned healthy as he consumed ‘Andamania Echnemia’ in abundance. He returned and was named the first vanquisher of the illness. The young boy also praised the plant that saved him. 

Andamania Echnemia And Its Survival

The Oraka tribesmen were visionary because they planted the seeds of ‘Andamania Echnemia’ all over the graveyards of their tribesmen/women who died of a disease similar to LHF-27 centuries ago. The planting allowed the seeds to adjust to the changing environment of the land and atmosphere. This proves that ‘Andamania Echnemia’ passed the survival of the fittest test and remained a poignant part of the Oraka culture up until ATOM decided to clear their graveyard. Planting the seeds was the tribe’s way of giving back to nature after consuming many ‘Andamania Echnemia’. Chiru and Vinayak’s mother was also in possession of these seeds. Vinu and Jyotsana used the same for their school class project, and seventeen years later he was witness to the blooming ‘Andamania Echnemia’ in their school courtyard. The plants evolved with time and are not extinct.

Admiral Qadri And The Skewed Idea Of Survival

Lt. Governor of the island, Admiral Zibran Qadri, claimed that he had to evolve as a leader for the betterment of humanity and make sound decisions based on the needs of the hour instead of being tied down by nostalgia and emotion. Admiral Qadri gave the order for peptides to be extracted from the bodies of Oraka men. This procedure will save the lives of many infected patients. The Orakas’ lack of adaptation to surgical procedures might prove fatal to them. Ritu’s investigation found that the peptide that is found in ‘Andamania Echnemia’ is found in the bodies of these tribal men and women. Over the centuries, their ancestors consumed this plant. This made their bodies immune to the current outbreak of LHF-27. Many other locals and tourists succumbed to this bacterial disease, but none of the Oraka were affected by it. The admiral claims that it is time for Oraka to give up, as they are the weakest link and do not deserve to fit into the survival chain.

The admiral ignored the fact that survival is a choice humans make. The fact that the Oraka tribe has survived in the jungles of Andaman and Nicobar for centuries automatically makes them the winners of the survival test. They are fewer in number, but their will to live as per their norms, traditions, and faith has helped them so far. The Oraka survived because they planted the ‘Andamania Echnemia’ plant to sustain their future, while other humans did not do that. Hopefully, Ritu will find a batch of these plants on another island, which will probably help the Lt. Governor change his mind. Humans need to carefully nurture their present so that the future generation can survive and break away from the chain of this Darwinian theory. The last shot of the show paints a picture of Oraka tribesmen not willing to bow down to the authorities and their demands.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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