Director: Anubhuti Kashyap
Writers: Sumit Saxena, Saurabh Bharat, Vishal Wagh, and Anubhuti Kashyap
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Rakul Preet Singh, Shefali Shah, Sheeba Chaddha, and Ayesha Kaduskar
Dr. Uday Gupta is a medical student. He wants to specialize in orthopedics but the only seat available in Bhopal, where he stays with his mother, is in the gynecology department. Since he doesn’t want to leave his single mom alone, he takes it up. But he has a plan; he will simultaneously prep for a better rank and switch to ortho. Life, however, seldom goes as per plans.
As he lands up in the gynecology department armed with his male swag and ego, he finds out that he is the only male student there. It doesn’t help that he already has a bias against gynecology and deems it a ‘girly profession’ not suitable for a macho ‘rockstar’ like him. There begins his journey from being a regular toxic guy who hardly hears what the women around him are saying or give their thoughts or emotions any importance, to becoming a sensitive man with a deeper understanding of the female experience and empathy for all. It is a journey where he loses his ‘male touch’ and finds the ‘doctor’s touch’; he acquires a non-gendered approach towards not only the profession but also friendship.
Ayushmann Khurrana is a capable actor and Uday Gupta is right up his alley. He excels in playing the lovable, genial, middle-class, boy-next-door, who at times might be a bit flawed but always end up as the woke protagonist. Vicky Donor ( 2012), Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (2017), Badhaai Ho (2018), Dream Girl (2019), Bala (2019), Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (2020), and now this, the social crusader has made a career out of ‘coming of age’ or helping others come of age. So much so, that we might as well call these small-town stories with a social message the ‘Ayushmann Khurrana genre’ or part of a franchise. After a point it has become a tad tedious to watch his films; nobody wants to spend money and go to a movie theatre just to get lectured on a social issue, definitely not in film after film after film with similar stock characters and setting. But, it is difficult to fault his acting. He always imbues the characters he plays with certain honesty that reflects his own as an actor. He lives the part. With Doctor G, he gets a crackling script to work with. And he sparkles in every scene. He is fresh, fun, and fantastic as Uday Gupta.
Sheeba Chaddha as Shobha Gupta, Uday’s mom who had lost her husband at a rather young age and has single-handedly brought Uday up, is an absolute delight to watch. Shobha’s non-judgmental views on love, life, and most things around her, coupled with her childlike excitement and curiosity about social media and even dating apps, make her an endearing character. When she tries to use google maps to help her son, she is like every mom struggling with technology yet never giving up an opportunity to help her children. She is also a quintessential ‘Bollywood mom’ feeding laddus to her son and his friends. Sheeba’s understated and subtle acting keeps the character real even while ticking the Bollywood Mom checklist. And her comic timing makes the character precious. Also, credit goes to the writers for writing such lovely scenes for her. Be it when she gives a reality check to her son when lists his sacrifices for her, or when she jumps on the back seat of his bike in a nightie in the middle of the night hearing of an emergency, or when she calls another mother whose child is having a medical emergency, Shobha Gupta is all heart. And Sheeba is at the top of her game as Shobha Gupta.
Shefali Shah as Dr. Nandani Srivastav, the strict, no-nonsense, head of the gynecology department is impeccable in every scene (just as the pleats of her gorgeous sarees). Then with actors like Shefali, one hardly expects anything less than absolute brilliance. But her character in this movie doesn’t have the shades or the expanse as that of a Darlings or a Jalsa.
Rakul Preet Singh as Dr. Fatima Siddiqui does her job well, but the job itself isn’t that challenging. Doctor G is her fourth movie this year, and next she has Thank God, which is set for a Diwali release. Although she has been effective and done justice to the characters she has played, one hopes she gets a better opportunity to showcase her range as an actor.
Ayesha Kaduskar as Kavya, who has been manipulated into an untoward situation, one with grave consequences that even include life risk, gives a powerful and nuanced performance. Ayesha, who made her debut at the age of 5 in Zindagi Teri Meri Kahani (TV serial), has grown up to be a fine actor. It will be interesting to see her career trajectory from here.
Abhay Mishr as Chaddi, Priyam Saha as Dr. Jenny, Shraddha Gautam as Dr. KLPD, Karishma Singh as Dr. Ruchi, Anju Gaur as Dr. Boski are all impactful. Puja Sarup as Nurse Sunita is hilarious with her deadpan. However, Indranil Sengupta as Dr. Ashok Gupta doesn’t impress much.
What also doesn’t impress at all is the music album of the film. Neither Ketan Sodha’s score nor the songs composed by Amit Trivedi, Sultan Sulemani, and Amjad Nadeem Aamir, and written by Kumaar, Amjad Nadeem, Raj Shekhar, and Puneet Sharma have much recall value.
But it is the screenplay by Sumit Saxena, Saurabh Bharat, Vishal Wagh, and Anubhuti Kashyap that is the real hero of this film. The story by Sourabh Bharat isn’t anything that we have seen in Hindi cinema, but given the growing number of cookie-cutter versions of woke cinema, this could have easily become just another of those Ayushmann Khurrana movies. What saves it is the brilliant writing. The dialogues by Sumit Saxena are funny, somber, subtle, loud, and even at times tremble on the brink of crass. But it is never out of place or over the top. What is refreshing is that there is no attempt at using any dialect or local accent (which our actors have time and again proved to be rather terrible at) and there is no milking of the small-town milieu.
The small town in this film is Bhopal, but we are spared the politics and stock characters of the joint family and also the narrow nostalgia-laden lanes and peopled courtyards. Here the small town is used to serve a particular purpose and help the story. It is not there for cosmetic reasons. Much like Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein, this is a movie that might not have worked this well if set in a bigger city.
The movie can be regarded as Ayushmann Khurrana’s attempt at ticking the ‘feminism’ box after the LGBTQIA+ one with Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui. But Doctor G never becomes stilted or pretentious while addressing or quashing patriarchy and misogyny. It might have something to do with the fact that it is helmed by a woman, who keeps it real. Anubhuti Kashyap, who had previously helmed the web series, Afsos, dazzles in her feature-length directorial debut. Although the idea of a toxic man, who doesn’t quite understand woman or treat them as just objects of desire, being made to go through a women’s experiences or lose the ‘male touch’, isn’t really unique or new (think Switch, Sam, The Sex Trip or our very own Mr. Ya Miss ). Here, instead, the protagonist is shoved inside a woman-dominated medical college and given a job that de-sexualizes the female anatomy. It is a premise that is relatable and effective in conveying the message. But the movie never becomes preachy in an attempt to do so. The gender politics, the patriarchal mindset, the random misogyny (also casually castigating the toxicity of Kabir Singh is just delightful), and even the ideas of secularism, are all weaved into the story seamlessly. The Muslim, Tamil, and Christian doctors are indeed there to reflect the unity in diversity but it isn’t used as an obvious trope. Also, it is interesting how each character is given their independent arcs; it is where their lives intersect with Uday’s that we get to see them the most. Overall, it is a movie that reflects the love and care that has gone into its making, and also the sincerity.
However, the most delicious bit is how the movie subverts the quintessential Bollywood trope by swapping the love-story angle for a platonic relationship between to lead pair. You can’t help but smile when Uday asks Fatima if she would be his buddy. Society has come a long way from the Sooraj Barjatya’s Maine Pyar Kiya days of Ek ladka aur ek ladki kabhi dost nahi ho sakte, about time our movies do the same.
The cinematography by Eeshit Narain is good and consistent. Prerna Saigal’s editing could have been better in the first half.
I am going through a serious ‘small-town cinema’ fatigue and an ‘Ayushmann Khurrana -spreading-social-message cinema’ fatigue. Then there are the gross and very vivid delivery scenes of House of the Dragons episodes, which have turned the experience of watching the show into that of living inside a maternity ward. So, I went in for this with some trepidation (to put it mildly). But I was pleasantly surprised. I quite liked the film in spite of the personal reservations that I had stacked up against it. What works is that there is a certain honesty about the film. It ticks many of the boxes of ‘woke cinema’, replete with secularism tropes, but these seamlessly blend into the story. There is a certain empathy and sensitivity with which each character is handled. It might have helped to have a woman on the writing team. But also, there is a sense of detachment with which the story is handled. It works in certain scenes but then there are scenes where this detachment breaks the emotional connection making it look like just another plot point. Also, some rather crass dialogues could have been avoided.
Watch it for a story that doesn’t feel jaded, an Ayushmann Khurrana that is as adorable as always, and a Shefali Shah who is as usual at the top of her game. Look out for Sheeba Chaddha and Puja Sarup, two theatre actors who are an absolute joy to watch on the big screen.
The movie talks about gynecology and anatomy which at times might become difficult for children to understand, also, often the dialogues become a bit crass. The movie is aptly given an A certificate and might not be an ideal family watch.