Wes Anderson adds another marvel to his cinematic universe through Roald Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, where we get to witness stalwarts like Ben Kingsley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dev Patel, and Ralph Fiennes enchant us with their performances. At times, you are not able to decide if someone’s style of execution intrigues you more than the narrative. Be it The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle of Dogs, or the latest whimsical creation, Asteroid City, Wes Anderson always leaves you with something to ponder over. There are not a lot of people who can make you experience such profundity using animated backgrounds, miniature set pieces, and stop-motion animation. The characters in “Henry Sugar” break the fourth wall and narrate their story in the third person while also enacting it for the audience. They talk at a fast pace, and their observations and storytelling are very unique and fascinating. The embedded narrative just keeps you hooked at all times, and at the end, you just cannot seem to fathom how such a simple story could end up talking about such larger-than-life philosophies. So, let’s find out what is happening in Roald Dahl’s story, the kind of journey the characters go on, and what they end up deciphering about life in the end.
What did Imdad witness in the woods?
The real-life character of Roald Dahl, played by Ralph Fiennes for the screen, tells us how the man needs just the right environment for writing. He needs coffee, chocolate, and sharpened pencils, and if things are not the way he wants them to be, the thoughts just don’t flow on paper. After making sure that Dahl has everything, he starts to narrate what happened that day when Henry Sugar went over to his rich friend’s library and accidentally saw a book that was based on true accounts and written by a person named Dr. Chatterjee (Dev Patel). Dahl asserts that, though it might seem like fiction, the story is based on real events.
Dr. Chatterjee was the head surgeon at the Lords and Ladies Hospital in Calcutta, and one day, an old man walked into his room and told him and his colleagues that he could see everything even with his eyes closed. Dr. Chatterjee, like everyone else, didn’t believe him at first, and he also felt a bit annoyed, presuming the man was just there to waste his precious time. The doctors conducted a quick test by making Imdad guess the number of fingers with his eyes closed. What happened surprised them, and they knew that they had to know more about this man, as what he was doing was scientifically not possible. Imdad said that he had come to the town for a show, and he wanted the doctors to conduct a test on him so that he would prove to the people that he was not lying. Imdad said that even after performing the greatest magic trick, which was 100 percent genuine, people didn’t believe him, and they always thought that he was deceiving them in some way.
Dr. Chatterjee and his colleague Dr. Marshall conducted their test, and the results were baffling, and they just could not believe what they had seen. Dr. Chatterjee went to watch Imdad’s show, and after that, he met him backstage with a desire to know more about how he was able to do all of that. Dr. Chatterjee made an offer to Imdad; he said that he would document his entire journey as faithfully as he could if Imdad told him how he developed those powers. Imdad also wanted his story known to the world, so he started narrating his life’s journey to Dr. Chatterjee. Imdad had met a yogi in India back in the day who had this power to levitate many inches above the ground. Imdad said that he was hiding behind the bushes and watching the Yogi perform. He couldn’t stop his impulses, so he went running up to him and the Yogi felt that his privacy was violated, and in anger, he indeed threw a brick at Imdad. Imdad got injured, and the Yogi felt bad for losing his temper. Still, Imdad only hoped that he somehow got to know the Yogi’s secret so that he could use it in his own profession.
How did Imdad get his powers?
The Yogi felt guilty about assaulting Imdad, and he ended up revealing his secret and telling Imdad how he had gotten his powers. He said that the human mind is always very scattered, with a myriad of things going inside it. The trick was to be able to learn to focus on one thing so that no other thought could break the concentration. The Yogi said that it took 20 years to achieve that feat, though he also cautioned Imdad that there was no certainty that he would also take that amount of time. Imdad knew that he would have to put in a great deal of effort to have those kinds of powers, but he was ready for the challenge. Imdad took a candle, stared right at the center of the flame, and tried to picture his late brother’s face. Imdad was making progress, and every day, he used to sit in front of the candle and meditate. One day, he realized that he could read with his eyes closed, and that’s when his life completely changed. He no longer needed his eyes and he showcased the result of his austerity to the entire world.
What did Henry Sugar do after learning the trick?
Of all the things, what intrigued Henry Sugar the most, was that Imdad was able to guess the type of card in a deck without even looking at it. Henry Sugar knew that if he was able to see like Imdad and the monk, he could use it to win unprecedented amounts of money in gambling. Henry Sugar was allured by this aspect so much that he actually followed a disciplined life and did the impossible. He learned the trick of seeing without opening his eyes. The day he realized that he could guess the card in the deck, within 5 seconds, he decided to go to a casino and put his newfound powers to the test. Henry Sugar was able to earn a huge amount of money, but when he came back to his home, something strange happened to him.
After spending so much time training his senses and following such a disciplined spiritual path, his entire being was purified, and he felt that he could connect to his higher self. He no longer wished to have all that money, and he ended up throwing it all away from his balcony. A police officer (played by Ralph Fiennes) came to his house to scold him for causing such a ruckus on the stress when he could have invested his money for the cause of humanity. That’s when Henry Sugar got the idea, and he decided that he would win more money from the casinos and use it all to open hospitals and orphanages.
Henry died at the age of 63, but by then, he had raised a whopping 644 million dollars and had opened 21 orphanages and hospitals in total. John Winston (Dev Patel), Henry’s assistant, called Roald Dahl and asked him to write a brief history of Winston Suger LLC and the legacy left behind by the great Henry Sugar.
How Does The Film End?
During The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar‘s ending, John Winston told Roald that Henry Sugar was not the real name of the great man, and he didn’t want to reveal his identity, probably because he wanted to purport an idea that anyone with a big heart and a little of humanity in them could become Henry Sugar. Here was a man who only thought of money all his life and hadn’t worked a single day, yet his life changed when he realized his true calling in a time and space where he least expected it. Once he connected to his higher self, material things did not hold any meaning for him, and he spent the rest of his life working for the ones who needed him.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is a rather simple story by Roald Dahl, and maybe through it, he tries to tell us that kindness is a choice, and through it, you can make this world a better place to live in.