The film is a biopic of a man who sacrificed his everything towards the service of humanity and animals. After completing his doctor degree, Prakash’s father Baba Amte, took him and his brother Vikas on a picnic to Hemalkasa. This trip proved to be a major turning point in his life, after which he decided to stay back and serve the tribal population residing there as animals. His wife Dr. Mandakini (Sonali Kulkarni in a pivotal role) is akin to Sita, who follows Ram to the forest during his exile, but the difference, as pointed out by Dr. Prakash Baba Amte is that she doesn’t fancy a golden deer.
“This isn’t a zoo, but an orphanage,” is a line that sums up Dr. Amte’s love for animals. On a lighter note, he rues that his son got zero marks because he was asked by the teacher to name pet animals. The kid ended up writing tiger, leopard, bear and so forth. After all, he had been brought up in a home filled with tamed wild animals. “Let him learn the right answer after growing up, as of now, give him the marks,” requested Dr. Amte to the teacher.
Far from being a tear-jerker and sacrificial saga, this film has been generously sprinkled with such gems of humour and wit of a philosopher, be it the forest officer spelling ‘deer’ as ‘dear’, the government officers mistaking Amte for Ambedkar, to the hilarious scene of a tribal patient walking away with the bed after being cured.
Director Samrouddhi Porey is brave enough to make caustic remarks at our system, where tribal population is conveniently ignored, manipulated and raped by police, Naxalites and government officials. Owing to the lack of medical facilities, Dr. Amte and his team resort to operating patients by reading books.
Despite having no experience, they treat a blind woman, almost-dead man, cholera-struck population and wild animals. This self-taught, tried-tested methodology often lands Dr. Amte in legal troubles, which he dismisses with a nonchalant smile – the signature Nana Patekar style of Gulzar’s Hu Tu Tu and not Krantiveer, to be precise.
Nana Patekar as Dr. Prakash Baba Amte is a perfect pitch. Ten minutes into the film, you watch him as Dr. Prakash Baba Amte and not Nana Patekar that you’ve known. The very sight of him lamenting over his dead leopard leaves you moist-eyed and believe me, it’s hard reminding yourself that he’s just acting. In fact he isn’t acting, he’s living a character here.
While the world lauded Dr. Prakash Baba Amte and showered him accolades, our country remained lazily unaware about this existence – exactly the way we Googled the name of Kailash Satyarthi when he won the Nobel Peace Prize 2014.
It’s quite sad that we are taught repeatedly about the Nehrus and Gandhis of India but never about such luminaries – just like our media keeps reporting incessantly about actors and politicians and lets such real heroes exist in documentary films or until someone like Samrouddhi Porey makes a film on them. I would go to the extent of asserting that such films must be included in every school’s syllabus. When we can have sports as a subject, why not meaningful cinema?
While we’re at it, let me warn you: Watching ‘Dr. Prakash Baba Amte – The Real Hero’ isn’t easy. The film leaves such impact that it might become difficult for you to join those serpentine queues at food court of multiplex during interval – Blame it on a sense of guilt creeping within that refuses to leave you even after watching the film.
A few excerpts from a poem by veteran poet-lyricist-writer Javed Akhtar on Mother Teresa might sum up why you might not want to watch this film or why you ought to:
Main thehra khudgarz
Bas ek apni hi khaatir jeena waala
Tujh ko main kis moonh se poochoon
Tu ne kabhi ye kyoon nahin poocha
Kis ne in bad-haalon ko bad-haal kiya hai?
Lekin sach hai
Aisi baatein main tum ko kis moonh se poochhon
Mujh pe bhi woh zimmedaari aa jaayegi
Jis se main bachta aaya hoon
Behtar hai khaamosh rahoon main
I stand before you
A selfish being, living merely for my own self
What right do I have to ask you this:
Why did you never wonder?
Who has brought misfortune on those wretches?
But it is true
I can scarcely ask you such questions
For if I do, I will be saddled with a responsibility
That I have escaped thus far.
Perhaps it is best I remain silent.