(Post Contains Some Spoilers)
A couple is wandering through the tribal areas of Maharashtra which is visibly cut off from the rest of the world and is devoid of any development. In this desolate area, they come across a tribal woman who has given birth to a child. Devoid of any medical help, the woman uses a stone to crush the biblical cord and free the child. The couple especially the woman is aghast on seeing this. In another scene, they encounter a quack getting ready to sacrifice a human being in order to cure an ill person, while the relatives of the person and other bystanders partake in it blindly.
A large chunk of the urban population constituting of people like us will surely give an indifferent reaction on hearing of such instances. For we have heard and read about such things since time immemorial. However witnessing such things in person can surely be a shocking and unsettling experience. These two instances which happen to be two of the most powerful moments from the film indeed prove how oblivious we are about the existence of tribals in remote parts of India whom we may never encounter in our life.
Dr. Prakash Baba Amte tells the story of this India whose existence we couldn’t care less about. The film narrates the true story of Magsaysay Award winner Prakash Amte (Nana Patekar) and his wife Mandakini Amte (Sonali Kulkarni) who moved by the pitiable conditions of tribals and animals living in the Hemalkasa region of Maharashtra worked tirelessly to give them good medical facilities and most importantly a life of dignity. How Dr. Prakash, his wife and a group of dedicated people strived for the betterment of the tribal people, fought corruption, indifference prevalent among the Government officials amongst many other things forms the crux of the film.
Attempting a biopic in Indian cinema is a risky affair for we often tend to glorify the protagonist being depicted in the film and rarely do we show their weaker side on celluloid. This also occurs due to the fact that we only want to see their good and heroic side and not their blemishes. And also due to the fear of inviting the wrath of their followers and other people who have no other business apart from getting offended at such films and asking to ban it.
The film deserves brownie points for telling the remarkable true story of a couple who sacrificed all the comforts of a luxurious urban life to work for the betterment of lesser privileged people. Several vignettes and struggles of Dr. Prakash’s life are portrayed rather well. Like the initial encounters of the blind faith and malpractices prevalent in the rural areas, the lack of medical facilities in these areas and the pitiable way of living prevalent among the tribal people. The honest depiction of the characters of Dr. Amte and his wife makes them all the more relatable to us. Like the scene in which Sonali Kulkarni accidentally turns on a shower in the hotel room when they go abroad to receive the Magsaysay Award conferred to Dr. Amte. Moreover the struggle of Dr. Amte and the other people to setup medical facilities and perform surgeries despite the lack of electricity stays with you, making you realize how hard it is to survive without the basic essentials and necessities of life.
Taking the title of the film way too seriously, the film tries to portray Dr. Amte as a hero and tries to reinforce this fact in almost every scene of this. Initially this works in favour of the film and makes us appreciate the protagonist. However, this becomes one of the biggest stumbling blocks of the film as it progresses. In the process of glorifying Dr. Amte and his wife’s life journey, the film doesn’t give the tribals any credible portrayal or identity. The tribals are an important part of the story however director Samruddhi Porey hardly gives them any credibile identity and ends up caricaturing them. Initially it is amusing to see the reactions of the tribal people as they try to make sense of the changes taking place around them. Like the scene in which a tribal male runs away with the saline he is being injected with and the bed after he recovers. The portrayal of the tribal people however becomes annoying after a point as they are only depicted as objects of humour. Like the scene in which they give a startled expression after hearing the ‘Kitne Aadmi They?’ dialogue form Sholay on the transistor.
One of the interesting aspects of Dr. Prakash Amte’s life is his relation with the tribal people. How he overcame the communication hurdles, shattered their prejudices and ultimately became a messiah and an inspiration in their lives would indeed be fascinating to know. So is the bond he shared with the wild animals like panthers, bears etc whom he reared in a zoo made within the surrounding of his home. Sadly this aspect is never fully explored in the film.
The first few minutes which involves an over enthusiastic Indian female accompanying an Asian gentleman keen to meet Dr. Amte is badly executed and has some terrible acting especially by the actress playing the female. The introduction scene of Dr. Amte wherein he emerges from a lake with a tiger is unintentionally hilarious. While the idea was to portray Dr. Amte as a person who is much in harmony with nature and animals, the terrible VFX and execution of the scene makes the scene appear it like an unintentionally funny tribute to Ajay Devgn’s Himmatwala.
The first half is engaging and has you completely hooked on to the proceedings. The film however becomes largely melodramatic and clichéd as it reaches the end. I also failed to understand why the directorial and writing credits of Director Samruddhi Porey was flashed several times in the first few minutes itself of the film?
The film works largely due to the believable performances by Nana Patekar and Sonali Kulkarni as Dr. Prakash Amte and Dr. Mandakini Amte respectively. They bring a sense of dignity and warmth in their performances helping us relate and identify with them, despite the film going haywire in the latter portions. Mohan Agashe playing the role of Dr. Baba Amte also leaves a strong impact. A special mention must be made of Mahesh Aney’s cinematography which captures the areas of Hemalkasa and its intrinsic beauty rather well.
It is indeed commendable on the part of director Samruddhi Porey to tell the story of a real life inspirational figure like Dr. Prakash Amte and make us aware about such real life heroes who have worked for betterment of people but are largely unknown. However the mediocre execution does not make us appreciate the film the way we would have liked to. Ultimately, as a film Dr. Prakash Baba Amte – The Real Hero despite its noble intention fails to make a strong impact.
However, one hopes that the success of this film will force directors to make films on many of other such selfless, inspiring and iconic people whose stories need to be told to the world.