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Posts Tagged ‘Erin Brockovich’

Background

In this series, we consider some more movies through the spiritual lens of 12 personality traits mentioned by The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry in India.

Part 1 had covered the traits of Sincerity and Humility. Part 2 had looked at movies which touch upon such traits as Gratitude, Perseverance, Aspiration and Receptivity.

In Part 3, we cover the following personality traits: Progress, Courage, Goodness and Generosity.

Progress

This could be of several kinds – material, spiritual and social. Most of us keep chasing materialistic goals in our lives. Some who feel a nagging emptiness within despite outstanding success on the material plane get awakened to the possibility of a spiritual growth. Few others try and work on such social ills as corruption and hygiene.

Guide (1965) showed us the transformation of an ambitious Raju (Dev Anand) from being an ordinary tourist guide to a successful businessman, thanks to a talented dancer Rosie (Waheeda Rehman). What followed was a web of commerce and misuse of funds, leading to a jail term for Raju. Eventually, upon nearing death, he experiences an awakening of the soul.

 

Invictus (2009) captures the manner in which Nelson Mandela endeavours to overcome racial prejudices not only in his team of personal assistants but also in his country, using the unlikely sport of rugby to make progress. The movie sets an inspiring example of achieving social harmony by dismantling apartheid through a spot of out-of-box thinking.

When it comes to progress on the social front, several movies have touched upon the issues of corruption, regressive attitudes and sexual exploitation.

 

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (1983) and Well Done Abba (2009) addressed the issue of corruption with dollops of humour.

 

 

Toilet – Ek Prem Katha (2017) and Padman (2018) championed the cause of hygiene.

 

 

Gulaab Gang (2014) spoke of various ills plaguing the Indian society.

 

 

Mardaani (2014) and Lakshmi (2014) were both hard-hitting but highlighted the challenges one faces while battling human trafficking and child prostitution.

Movies which focus on social attitudes are often preachy and negative. But these serve a useful purpose by telling us where we are going wrong, thereby hampering our own progress.

Courage

The hero who shows courage by bashing up a bunch of goons to save the honour of his beloved on the silver screen gets lauded enthusiastically by a cheering audience. But here we shall touch upon the courage which manifests in many other ways, mostly utilized to achieve a higher goal in life.

Pyaasa (1957) depicted the courage of a poet Vijay (Guru Dutt) to denounce a corrupt and materialistic world. Unable to tolerate the hypocrisy in the society, he decides to start a new life with Gulabo (Waheeda Rehman), the woman in his life.

 

Lakshya (2004) takes us on an inner journey of a happy go lucky but aimless Karan Shergill (Hrithik Roshan) who joins the army during the Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan. Death of a close friend leads him to discover his aim – that of capturing Point 5179, a strategic mountain peak on the border by ascending a 1000 feet high rocky vertical cliff.

 

A Wednesday (2008) shows the extent to which a common man (Naseeruddin Shah) can go to meticulously avenge all the terrorist attacks some people had helped carry out in Mumbai and other major cities of India, specifically the 2006 Mumbai train bombings.

 

Life of Pi (2012) shows the kind of courage it takes to survive and do well in life. The search for an identity becomes a voyage extraordinaire. The movie has a touch of sentimental spirituality.  Pi survives his great adventure of crossing an ocean in the company of an adult Bengal tiger!

 

Neerja (2016) is a tribute to Neerja Bhanot (played by Sonam Kapoor) who laid down her life while protecting passengers on a hijacked Pan Am flight 73. The film ends with a tribute to Neerja, who was eventually honoured posthumously with the Ashoka Chakra, India’s highest military decoration awarded for peacetime valor, courageous action or self-sacrifice.

Goodness

When we overcome our greed and our prejudices, and when we learn to radiate love and display concern and empathy, we practice goodness.

Parakh (1960) was about an award from an anonymous donor of Rupees 5,00,000 to any resident of a particular village who will use it for the benefit of the entire village. Villagers decide to use democratic methods and favour an election where the winner gets the money. Each candidate tries to woo the villagers by being sympathetic and by becoming a cheerful giver to all by offering various sops. Goodness, however superficial, prevails. Eventually, the decision comes from the benefactor who lives in the village in disguise. At a deeper level, the movie highlighted the limitations of the concept of democracy.

 

Satyakam (1969) introduced us to Satyapriya (Dharmendra) who tries to live a truthful, honest and good life. Even in great adversity he doesn’t let go of his ideals. A fatal illness leads to his death and the grandfather (Ashok Kumar) who had sworn him to a path of righteousness realizes that even though he has spent his whole life studying religious scriptures and philosophical books as well as practising many rituals, he still had much to learn about the nature of truth. He overcomes his moral prejudices and vows to take care of his daughter-in-law (Sharmila Tagore) and the grand kid.

 

Raincoat (2004), based on O. Henry’s short story ‘The Gift of the Magi’, brings together two ex-lovers Mannu (Ajay Devgun) and Neeru (Aishwarya Rai). The former is unemployed and has limited means. The latter is now a housewife leading a frugal life. Each boasts to the other about their successful life but realize the hollowness of the other’s claims. Mannu ends up paying Neeru’s overdue rent for many months whereas she slips in two of her gold bangles into the pocket of a raincoat he has borrowed from her.

 

Patch Adams (1998) was all about the importance of laughter, empathy and concern for patients who are often treated in a soulless and mechanical manner in the medical world. The hero’s conviction of his own approach never waivers, except when his companion dies in unfortunate circumstances. But he soon recovers and reverts to his practice of goodness, dedicating his work to her memory.

Generosity

Many of us have occasionally had a helping hand from someone who went out of the way to offer support when it was badly needed. Those who are kind, empathic and compassionate could be said to be of a generous disposition. Somehow, life always gifts them with generous bonuses – whether financial or in terms of a cult status.

 

Schindler’s List (1993) portrayed the efforts of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist, who saves the lives of more than a thousand Polish-Jewish people from the Holocaust. When World War II is declared to be over, the workers give Schindler a signed statement attesting to his role in saving Jewish lives and present him with a ring engraved with a Talmudic quotation: “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” Schindler is touched but also ashamed, as he feels he should have done even more. In a scene which is deeply touching, he breaks down sobbing, and is comforted by the workers.

 

 

Erin Brockovich (2000) was all about a legal clerk motivating a group of sufferers to stand up against a large company and get suitable compensation awarded by a court of law. Her identification with the cause and her perseverance – both are worth emulating. She does not expect any personal benefit in return, though she does get suitably rewarded for her services at the end of the movie.

The generosity showcased in these movies is neither feigned nor artificial. Both are based on actual incidents, restoring our faith in the innate goodness in people.

(This series of posts is dedicated to Ms Usha Bhatia, my late wife. Inputs from Mr Sanjay Mohan and Ms Gargi Banerjee are gratefully acknowledged)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/13/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-1-of-4

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/16/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-2-of-4

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/24/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-4-of-4)

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In a majority of movies churned out by Bollywood, doctors and nurses have only been on the fringes of the narrative. But there are some which have highlighted the professional trials and tribulations faced by our healers. Few have even commented upon the complex challenges of poverty, malnutrition and scarce resources faced by doctors and nurses in a developing country like India.

Keeping in tune with the times, the depiction has also undergone a major transformation. As our society has become more self-centered, so has the general character of the doctors and nurses shown in the Bollywood flicks. The self-sacrificing doctors of yesteryears have slowly but steadily given way to glamorous ones playing second fiddle to a mostly romantic script at hand.

Risking Their Own Lives

In the pre-independence era prior to 1947, we had self-sacrificing doctors who rendered their services in alien lands, serving the Poster Dr_Kotnis_ki_Amar_Kahanipeople affected by war and plague. Old timers may remember Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946, V. Shantaram, ‘The Immortal Saga of Dr. Kotnis’) which was based on the true life-story of Dr. Dwarakanath Kotnis who was sent to China during World War II. Dr. Kotnis helps the people of China during the Japanese invasion. Rendering a selfless service, he marries and settles down there itself but eventually dies of plague.

Post-independence, we had Dil Ek Mandir (1963, C. V. Sridhar, ‘Heart is a Temple’), where the doctor performs a successful surgery but ends up collapsing due to the tireless effort he puts in preparing for the same. Aman (1967, Mohan Kumar, ‘Peace’) was inspired by the story of Dr. Kotnis. The hero gets inspired to serve humanity after meeting Sir Bertrand Russell and goes to Japan to serve the victims of nuclear holocaust.

In Selfless Service  

In movies like Anuradha (1960, Hrishikesh Mukherjee) and Khushboo (1975, Gulazar, ‘The Fragrance’), the heroes are doctors Poster Khamoshiwho decide to serve poor villagers in the interiors of India. Risking their own health and welfare, they keep busy with their work and neglect their family and personal lives. In Anuradha, the wife eventually ends up sacrificing her urbane musical ambitions to support the husband. In Khushboo, the wife does so but not before she has questioned his lack of initiative in inviting her to live with him. Both movies had finely chiseled performances by the lead actors – Balraj Sahni, Leela Naidu, Jeetendra and Hema Malini.

Khamoshi (1969, Asit Sen, ‘Silence’) had the inimitable Waheeda Rehman playing a nurse in a mental asylum. She falls in love with a patient who gets well and moves out without reciprocating her sentiments. Impressed by her success, the doctor-in-charge entrusts yet another patient to her care. She falls in love with him as well but loses her own mental balance when he is cured. The moral of the story: a medical professional should not get personally involved with a patient. Easier said than done!

Battling the Big C

In the 1970s, Bollywood came out with several movies which had a medical problem as the cornerstone. In quite a few movies, cancer took over from TB as the real villain. Most of these movies tugged at our heartstrings. One, there was the inevitability of death. Two, the sheer helplessness of a doctor made the narration even more poignant. Audiences loved them nevertheless and often came out of theatres with drenched handkerchiefs.

Safar (1970, Asit Sen, ‘The Journey’) had a doctor facing the charge of intentionally killing someone dear to her. The story was Poster Anandessentially a love triangle. The underlying theme was that of jealousy of the doctor’s husband, guilt of the doctor wife and reconciliation with the fact of impending death by the wife’s close friend who is afflicted with cancer.

Anand (1971, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, ‘Bliss’) was a landmark film which touched upon several facets of a doctor’s life. Indian health care system’s discrimination between the haves and the have-nots of the society was one of the facets. Yet another was the transformation of an atheist doctor into someone who starts  believing in the power of prayer to heal. The need to have a positive attitude towards life, howsoever short it may be, was the basic message of the movie.

Commercial and Legal Dilemmas

Tere Mere Sapne (1971, Vijay Anand, ‘Your Dreams, My Dreams’) narrated the story of a doctor who migrates to a city after Poster Tere Mere Sapnehaving suffered professional as well as personal setbacks in a rural setting. His transformation into a money spinning professional in an urban environment is well captured. Eventually, he migrates back to the village and regains his sense of good values and ethical practices in healthcare.

Achanak (1973, Gulzar, ‘All of a sudden’) posed an interesting dilemma faced by a doctor at times. Does it make sense for a doctor to strive hard to save the life of a convict who is to be sent to the gallows? The movie answers this question in the affirmative.

The Fringe Benefits of Healthcare

In Silsila, we had a hapless doctor (Sanjeev Kumar) trying to figure out how to handle the post-marital affair of his wife (Rekha). In Satte Pe Satta, we had the heroine (Hema Malini) playing a gutsy nurse, though only in the first few reels.  Salman Khan in Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya, Abhishek Bacchhan in Dostana, Kareena Kapoor in 3 Idiots, Vidya Balan in Pa and Aishwarya Rai in Guzaarish were all glitzy characters playing to the gallery, with their medical talents appearing only on the fringes of the main narrative.  

Healthcare with Bear Hugs

Munna Bhai MBBS (2003, Rajkumar Hirani) was a hilarious take on the medical profession. It touched upon the mixed up Poster-Munna_Bhai_M.B.B.S.priorities in hospitals where patients lack a personal healing touch and where procedures take precedence over urgent medical issues. Quite a few of our aspiring and practicing doctors would have drawn inspiration from the movie to improve the healthcare system by according better priority to compassion, empathy and liveliness in treating patients!

Summer 2007 (2008, Suhail Tatari) raised the issue of lack of awareness amongst medicos about the social ills and absence of any healthcare delivery service in India’s rural areas. Greedy moneylenders and power-hungry politicians rule the roost. A group of medical interns attempts to cope with the daunting challenges facing villagers.

Waiting for Medical Blockbusters!

The wide variety of healthcare related issues touched upon in these movies is commendable. However, one still waits for an in-depth poster comatreatment of the field of medicine at the hands of Bollywood. There is immense scope for medical thrillers based on patent rights of gene based therapies, moral dilemmas raised by the new frontiers of medicine, whistle blowers exposing corrupt practices in the pharmaceutical industry, shortages of critical vaccines and contemporary challenges on providing universal healthcare services in India.

In the last decade, Bollywood has demonstrated its capacity to make shorter movies based on innovative themes. Hopefully, the field of medicine would also get better attention with script-writers and directors coming out with a Coma, a Strong Medicine, a Virus and, possibly, even an Erin Brockovich in not too distant a future!

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