Daily Recco, March 31: Anandi Gopal, a motivating biopic of an unusual love story
India's first lady doctor, Dr Anandibai Joshi’s life and her husband’s motivation is an inspiring story that makes Sameer Vidwans’s biographical film, Anandi Gopal, a must-watch on her 156th birth anniversary today.
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Behind every successful man, they say, there is a woman. But what of the men who stand braving every odd and challenge as unshakable pillars as their wives conquer greatness? No matter how eccentric, such men deserve an honourable mention and one such husband of a great wife was Gopal Joshi, the husband of one of India's first female doctors — Dr Anandibai Joshi.
Sameer Vidhwans’s Marathi film — Anandi Gopal (2019) — is a biopic of Dr Anandi Joshi’s life, recounting her grit and determination, and Gopal Joshi’s undeterred motivation and support.
Set in the 1800s in the erstwhile Bombay presidency (present-day Maharashtra), Anandi Gopal is an unusual love story. A story where the progressive and eccentric Gopal Joshi beats up his very young wife, Anandi — not for cooking or shirking household chores, but for not studying. Violence and love don't go hand-in-hand, you say. We agree. But wait till you hear more.
Nine-year-old Anandi is married to widower Gopal, who is over two decades older than her — quite common for those times. What is uncommon, however, is that Gopal champions women’s education. Women being educated is an aberration by the orthodox society of that era. Gopal goes to the extent that his condition to marry Anandi is that she will continue her education after marriage. Anandi’s perplexed, but impoverished parents, give in to the bizarre demand. On their nuptial night, Gopal asks Anandi to recite multiplication tables. And thus begins the saga of a man’s rebellion and his wife’s determination that went on to create history and inspire millions.
Anandi’s initial meekness and conformation to the orthodoxy by being a comely housewife is put to test by Gopal’s monomaniacal fixation of sending her to school. He resorts to threats and even violence to ensure his goal. 14-year-old Anandi loses her 10-day-old son to the lack of medical care, and that is the turning moment in the film and her life. It makes her see the wisdom behind her husband’s obduracy, and she resolves to be a doctor. Gopal is a man of action and goes to great lengths to ensure Anandi’s education. After relocating to Calcutta to ensure her schooling, he sends her to America alone (a woman travelling without a male companion was unthinkable in those times), to pursue her MD from the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania. Despite failing health, 19-year-old Anandi graduates.
The biopic is smoothly narrated. It has moments of melodramatic flourish and a certain suspension of disbelief that add up to create some charming and winning moments. That Gopal Joshi is a fanatical reformist and he sought to ensure his wife’s education to further his own image, as some critics may say, is a cynical way to look at it. Anandi and Gopal’s unconventional romance speaks a language of love that would seem bizarre to most of us. But who says bizarre cannot be beautiful? In the world created by Sameer Vidwans, the performances by Bhagyashree Milind as Anandi and Lalit Prabhakar as Gopal are absolutely heartfelt. Anandi and Gopal make a beautiful couple who might seem mismatched on the surface but are bound together by a sense of mutual respect and having each other’s backs.
Dr Joshi’s life went on to become a motivation to millions of Indian women to become doctors. On her 156th birth anniversary today, watch Sameer Vidwans’s biographical tribute to Anandi Gopal — the lady and the couple. It is currently streaming on ZEE5.