Doctor G Review: A Breezy Watch Where the Women Shine

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Doctor G Review: A Breezy Watch Where the Women Shine

Illustration: Arati Gujar

The protagonist of Anubhuti Kashyap’s Doctor G is a young man named Uday Gupta. A resident of Bhopal, Uday is a recognisable desi fellow, if you think about it. Reluctantly liberal in the street, freely regressive in the heat (of the moment). Real life may be a lot more complex, but in a movie, you can also make such a guy impishly adorable. Particularly if he’s stuck in, let’s say, a probing situation. That’s why we have Ayushmann Khurrana, after all. He, with a penchant for portraying extraordinary social quandaries of the everyman. ‘Every’ and ‘man’ are both operative in that description. If someone told you – with no other context – about a new Bollywood comedy depicting a man forced to become a gynaecologist, perhaps you’d wonder, ‘Hasn’t Ayushmann Khurrana already done that?’

The male OB-GYN angle that Doctor G uses as its setup, is both – its strength and its weakness. It helps provide the film with its effervescent fish-out-of-water (or, man-inside-fishbowl) moments in the first half. Much of the first hour, though, is essentially a series of standing gags that try to milk Uday’s awkwardness as the only man in a medical field that deals with women’s health. Some of the gags land, others don’t. His seniors (all women) bully him, but eventually accept him as one of their own, because he wins them over (quite easily). Predictably, he has to deliver his first baby in a corridor emergency. He is hailed a hero after pulling it off without breaking sweat. There’s very little real conflict in the original premise that you think the film is about. But the ‘gyni’ bits are merely fluff that mask a number of big and small conflicts that are set up while you’re looking elsewhere.

The male OB-GYN angle that Doctor G uses as its setup, is both – its strength and its weakness. It helps provide the film with its effervescent fish-out-of-water (or, man-inside-fishbowl) moments in the first half.

There’s a lot of ‘woking up’ on display with Khurrana’s Uday in Doctor G – some of his issues might be his own individual fault; but some of it also comes from the ‘system’ or ‘society’, or whatever else you want to pin it on. His girlfriend breaks up with him early in the film, because he is possessive and suspicious of her friendship with another man. Uday is that kind of guy, until life comes full circle. Uday also claims to be a devoted son, but he’s quite unaware of the emotional needs of his mother, who raised him all by herself. There are plenty of other women he has major and minor run-ins with, not to mention witnessing the devastating fall from grace of a man who he once saw as his idol. All of these come to a head later in the film, by when the froth suddenly disappears, and things become unexpectedly serious.

Perhaps it was the lack of genuine substance in the earlier half that made me appreciate the film a wee bit more in the latter. The second half closer resembled the film I personally hoped to see, though the hard detour ultimately makes the ‘male gynaecologist’ angle only a tool to kindle some intrigue. The film’s vital emotional takeaways – about men not really listening to and/or empathetically observing women in their lives, and about shedding a certain entrenched misogyny – would have been relevant and possible to depict in much the same way, without the early feint and some bewildering dialogue. (The schism between the two halves of the film had me wondering – did the ‘G’ in Doctor G stand for ‘Gehraiyaan’ ?)

But Shefali Shah brings some much-needed gravitas to the film’s light-heartedness, often grounding the story and reminding us of the real-world stakes of breezy fiction.

The most oddball character in Uday’s immediate circle, is a friend referred to only as ‘Chaddi’. For the longest time, I thought he was an imaginary friend, or that Doctor G was probably going to throw some magic realism at us – so eccentric are this chaddi-buddy’s references. Unsurprisingly, Ayushmann Khurrana features more than anyone else, and he plays Uday with a familiar ease. You know this is right up his alley, so he isn’t afraid to commit to the part. So, it is a joy to see that despite each of the many women in the film having significantly lesser screen time than him, they still walk away with most of the plaudits. Starting, of course, with the unstoppable Shefali Shah, who plays head of the OB-GYN department in the Bhopal hospital. We don’t see her doing anything new by her standards – she could have played ‘no-nonsense boss lady’ in her sleep, or between takes on Delhi Crime Season 2. But Shah brings some much-needed gravitas to the film’s light-heartedness, often grounding the story and reminding us of the real-world stakes of breezy fiction.

Rakul Preet Singh springs a surprise as soon-to-be-engaged Dr Fatima – Uday’s senior and newfound ‘love interest’, after his initial break up. The film uses just one line to dismiss the idea that religion could come in the way of love. And truth be told, that one line is enough to convince you and move on, at least in the world of the film. But there are other issues on their path, led by the fact that while Fatima is ostensibly committed, men are usually men, and Uday is one of those men. The tricky line between a deep platonic friendship and a romantic relationship is rarely portrayed with sensitivity and understanding in Hindi films. In that regard, despite eschewing some of the nuance of the whole affair in favour of some easily palatable melodrama, Doctor G ends up being unexpectedly subversive (in the way that a ten-year-old Dharma rom-com with a wholly different vibe once was.)

Still, there’s a touching stand-off and reconciliation between mother and son that helps chip away at one more piece of Uday’s man-ness.

There is also an underdone track about Uday and his mother, played by Sheeba Chaddha. You don’t really get to witness this particular relationship explore its full potential. Still, there’s a touching stand-off and reconciliation between mother and son that helps chip away at one more piece of Uday’s man-ness. A young girl named Kavya (played frighteningly well by Ayesha Kaduskar) is another character that makes quite an impression, simply by being at the centre of the film’s darkest strand, which involves a queasy relationship between an adult and a minor. Starting from one intriguing idea, the film meanders for long without ever delving deep enough. Then, it suddenly ends up being about too many important things, each of which could easily have been picked as the one thing that the film was actually about. In spreading itself too thin, Doctor G perhaps ends up missing the spot, but remains entertaining nonetheless.

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