It was last year after Aamir Khan’s much controversial show Satyamev Jayate telecast its venomous episode on Medical negligence that the entire medical fraternity came out in defense of the sanctity of their vocation. A rather limited delved into profession; there are few films which talk about medical sciences and doctors. Of the few, the most significant one is Tapan Sinha’s Ek Doctor Ki Maut.
One may have chanced on this film on the obscure Doordarshan channels, but higher chances are one may have never even heard of this delightful little masterpiece. Catching your eye from the start will be Pankaj Kapur, who you’ll have to agree has not lost his acting spark till date (remembering his piece in Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola). The film begins on the note of Dr Dipankar Roy, played by Pankaj Kapur discussing his project work with mentor Dr Kundu. Told in a documentary style, it is the actors’ strength that works as the driving force of the film. Pankaj Kapur flawlessly enacts a researcher’s passion and quintessential quest for knowledge, in a story told from a rather scientific angle. After much hardship our pivotal character Dr Roy has discovered the vaccination for leprosy and observed its beneficial side effect of treating infertility. His only pillar of support through his toiling is his wife played by Shabana Azmi. Often it has crossed my mind whether Bollywood has rendered Shabana Azmi her due share of adulation in return for her excellence in cinema!
The revolutionary vaccine discovered by Dr Roy, is published in the press by a friend Amulya enacted by Irrfan Khan. Even in the earliest stints of his acting career, Khan was promising enough to match up to the legendary actors both Azmi and Kapur in the same frame. While the Health Ministry insulted-ly reprimands Dr Roy, the gynecologists lobby against him citing almost ridiculous reasons objecting to his research. Slowly the story culminates into a painful tale of a talented genius waging a war to earn his credit from the research that he has been his baby for years. Bureaucratic negligence added with jealousy from colleagues, all add on to subject him to constant humiliation at work. Rejected by a bunch of medical students, as a man trying to fake news into getting himself instant fame, it is Pankaj Kapur’s credit that he meticulously maintains Dr Roy’s character with such class and composure, not to mention patience.
Facing strong blow after another, the last straw hits when another doctor wins credit for the same vaccine that Roy had created. A shattered and haplessly victimized Roy finally finds solace in the fact that his research was eventually put to the greater use of betterment of mankind. A certain John Anderson Foundation hunt him down in the far flung village he gets transferred to and invites him to work with reputed scientists who are regularly working towards finding treatments for diseases.
This film is a tribute to posthumously renowned doctor Subhash Mukherji, who pioneered in-vitro fertilization and later succumbed to the mental turmoil and ostracism which forced him to commit suicide.
Carved out with great thought, the film is near perfect in delivering what it attempts to, the pathos of genius butchered at the altar of lack of proper support and encouragement. The point goes beyond medical sciences and is relevant to anything starting from a shunned painter M.F Hussain thrown away from India who eventually died an honorary citizen of Qatar to the jailed Binayak Sen on the false grounds of supporting intra nation terrorism.
The film instills a strong sense of tragedy and drives home one of the most important reasons as to why India is still counted as a developing nation: a corrupt infrastructure that leniently breeds mediocrity by glorifying underachievers. Geniuses in every field, name it and you know it, are frequently faced with hardships and kept devoid of their rightful place. Why is it so hard in a country like India to support those who deserve to be placed high? Honest and thought provoking, this film is an extract of Tapan Sinha’s cinematic genius. Watch it for a story told from the core of an uncelebrated and unfulfilled doctor’s heart!