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 biopic. 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.
Image source: ZEE5
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