Anandi Gopal Is A Gem Of A Bio-Pic On India’s First Female Doc

Anandi Gopal(Marathi, Zee5)

Starring  Bhagyashree Milind,Lalit Prabhakar

Directed by  Sameer Vidhwans

Rating: ****

On 11 March 1886 Anandbai Gopal Joshi held  her  degree as India’s first female doctor as her proud husband whistled  with  joy. I have no  words to thank director Sameer  Vidhwans  for bringing this  story to  us. And that  too in such  a  beautifully told  love story between a  child bride and her  widower-husband, 20 years  her  senior, determined  to educate  her.

Anandi Gopal  is a  charming, irresistible instant classic with a  huge takeaway value. It tells  us that  gender equality is possible only when the feeling of social progress is  mutual. It’s not enough for  a husband to want his  wife to break the glass ceiling.  The lady has to have it within her too.

 Initially Anandi(an absolutely charming natural-born Bhagyashree Milind) just wants to keep her sullen obstinate  husband happy.She takes his bullying in her stride .And  goes along with his  obstinacy  to  educate her. The scenes between the underage  wife and  the  reformist somewhat  pompous husband are done with tremendous  empathy. Given the charming writing, natural  performances  and  sun-kissed  cinematography (by Akash Aggarwal) it didn’t take me  long to  fall in step with  Anandi’s husband Gopalrao’s  ambition to see his  wife become  a doctor.

And  let’s  get one  thing clear. This is the late 19th century British India where  the only fire that  burns in a woman’s heart is  the one  in the pyre. So  then who is this Marathi self-styled avatar  of Raja Ram Mohan Roy  who tells the smirking panchayat,  “Why only educate my wife? If my (widowed) mother-in-law wants  to  wear a  coloured saree I will personally buy it for her.”

  That “mother-in-law” angle is  another brilliant plot point. The lady Gopal is talking about is not Anandi’s mother. She was his first wife’s mother and now she has taken charge of  Anandi, Gopal, and his son  from his first marriage. It is the  good fortune  of  this  powerful  mother-in-law’s character  that she  is  played by  the  ever-dependable Geetanjali Kulkarani. Does she  ever disappoint?! Watch her in that sequence where she hands  over her dead daughter’s jewelry to her  son-in-law for his second wife’s medical education abroad.

“My first daughter is helping my second daughter,” she says tearfully.

 I have to confess I  wept through several moments of what I’d call Pure Cinema in this artless all-heart-no-gimmicks bio-pic. By the time Anandi gets her doctor’s degree  in Pennsylvania and her  husband proudly  shouts, “She is  from India” at the convocation  I  was out of  my seat  clapping and sobbing.

This is a simply warmly  told story of a historic woman that had  to be told specially at time when bio-pics are  being made on scumbags gangsters and scamsters. A  lot of  the credit for  the film’s  captivating credibility  goes to the lead pair. Both  Lalit Prabhakar and  Bhagyashree Milind are  first-rate. Lalit specially as the bullying obdurate  husband who  swears he will make a doctor out of his  wife even if its kills him,  is outstanding. His  determination is so well-mapped on his resolute face, it is like watching a movement rather than an individual’s battle against  bigotry.

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