Dr Prakash Baba Amte - The Real Heroby Deepa Bhalerao October 17 2014, 6:08 pm Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 50 secs
Critics rating: 3.5 Stars*
Cast: Nana Patekar, Sonali Kulkarni, Mohan Agashe
Direction: Samruddhi Porey
Written: Samruddhi Porey
Produced: Samruddhi Porey
Duration: 2 hours 17 minutes
Language: Marathi (with English subtitles)
The landscape gets your attention first- shrubs glistening in the bright sunlight, vast expanse of land, thick forests, and placid water. Deep in the heartland of Gadchiroli district in Vidarbha, we travel along with a team of three who have come to look for the newest Ramon Magsaysay awardee, and interview him. Far from urban comforts, in the midst of the pristine tribal Madia Gond community, they search for the doctor who has dedicated his life to serving one among the most excluded communities in the subcontinent.
The first glimpse charms you. Simply clad in a ganji (a loosefitting shortsleeved shirt) made of handspun material khadi, and white shorts, Dr Prakash Amte strides out of the lake where he was performing a shirshasana (a difficult yogic pose where the body stands inverted). His smile acquaints you with his sweet nature. A tiger that walks with him effortlessly makes for a very startling visual, one that stays with you long after you have left the cinema hall.
This is the story of Dr Prakash Amte, the younger son of Baba Amte who is one among India’s most loved social workers. The unusual childhood that he had, with giants in the field of social work mentoring him, his decision to study medicine after witnessing doctors squirm and stay away from leprosy patients, his father’s non-interference in his life choices and those of his brother’s, and the decision that he takes to move to Hemalkasa with his wife, Mandakini, who has also studied medicine with him in Nagpur’s Government Medical College, all take us through the inspiring sixties and seventies, when Gandhian values were cherished and practised by many who dedicated their lives to social work.
The film goes back and forth in time, trying to balance the narrative of the years that led to Dr Amte’s work in the toughest of areas with the way things are today.
The simplicity and deep compassion of the couple towards the people they are serving comes through in the various events that push their faith and their capacity to the extremes. Their animal orphanage charms you, even as it tells you how difficult it is, for the most genuine of workers, to sustain their enthusiasm.
The subsequent trust building followed by the sudden onslaught of work, their multi-level struggles against superstitions and the tribals’ dependence on some bizarre rituals, on the one hand, and the dismay-inducing attitude of the system on the other, are all very well presented.
Nana Patekar as Dr Prakash, Sonali Kulkarni as Dr Mandakini, and Dr Mohan Agashe as Baba Amte, essay their roles with effortless ease. They manage to make the audience get teary eyed with their expressions of tenderness and vulnerability. The dismal attitude of the police, the plight of the innocent tribals, the horror of the exploitation of women and children does not allow for even a moment of distraction.
Technically there is a lot that could have added to the visual appeal, and the back and forth in time could have been collated better, but despite these lacunae, the film manages to pull the viewer into the story effortlessly.
What also makes this film stand apart is the attention that has been given to the accuracy of medical facts which constitute the thread that weaves the various anecdotes together as a meaningful whole. The need to sterilise needles and other equipment, the need to explain the exact dose of medicine to be taken, the issue of maternal mortality which rears its ugly head every now and then, are all portrayed with the sensitivity and seriousness due to them, a fact often overlooked by many larger scale projects.
The filmmaker Samruddhi Porey and her team have paid attention to minor details like authentic locations, and authentic accents. The Marathi spoken by the lead actors is a tad too perfect though, unlike the real protagonists who blend easily with the people.
The strength of this film lies in the way it has told the story of exemplary people in a beautiful way. The fact that I had to see this movie sitting in the middle of the second row of a hall in a multiplex as there were no tickets available for the next five days, says something.
Don’t miss this heart-warming piece that lingers in the mind, long after it is over.