Director: Samruddhi Porey
DOP: Mahesh Anye
Cast: Nana Patekar, Sonali Kulkarni, Mohan Agashe, Tejashree Pradhan and Shubhankar Raut
Dr Prakash Baba Amte-The Real Hero, the Marathi biopic on the life and work of Prakash Amte and his wife Manda, looks at their work in the light of both their idealistic pursuit of a grand human service and their personal moments of intimacy and thought-sharing. The film also captures the humour and romance; for instance, scared by imitations of scary tiger calls, created by Prakash’s friends, Manda rushes into his arms during the first night in the frightful jungle. The humour tagged to the serious work (like when the first patient decamps with his cot after being treated successfully), the earthy celebration after winning the Magsaysay Award and taking the viewers on a tour of their zoo in the wild, add a touch of reality, preventing it from becoming a devotional ode to the Amtes.
Light arrived along with its shadow, more than four decades ago at the non-descript Bhamragarh area of Gadchiroli when even sunrays couldn’t pierce the impregnable canopy of the thick forest. The newly-married couple, Prakash and Manda Amte took the crazy decision to work among the Madia-Gond tribals with no roof over their heads. From the godforsaken conflict zone of Gadchiroli, the Amtes were felicitated for their yeoman’s service in the US.
From America, the camera pans back to Hemalkasa hamlet nestled in the beautiful surroundings of the Abujmaad hills. And then the celluloid throwback goes to the days that are testimony to Amtes and their friends’ extraordinary work to change the lives of the tribals, as also to the way they all drew personal satisfaction, happiness and fun out of those extremely trying moments.
Director Samruddhi Pore narrates the story, sequentially capturing events that denote the essence of Amtes work. Helped by the inherent drama, thrill and poignance of the story, she chokes the audience with emotions on many occasions. Also the writer of the film, Pore has been very frugal with words which has worked very effectively. Local tribals have been superbly intergrated to enact difficult scenes giving it a realistic touch. Especially the one where the anxious Amtes and their colleagues wait for an old woman to open her eyes after Prakash performs a cataract operation on her due to unavailability of an eye surgeon. Justifying his act, Prakash says, “If I succeed, she may be able to fend for herself. In any case, she had no option than to beg.” The film also captures their encounters with Naxalites and the Amtes protest when they witness young boys and girls joining the movement due to police atrocities. During the course of the film, Prakash espouses the importance of integrating not only the tribals into mainstream society, but also weaning the Naxalites away from violence, a fact that was ignored by the government. The film does bring out the lack of governance in the conflict zone well within the confines of Amte’s story.
The film also throws light on the rebellious streak in Amte and his reaction when animals in his “illegal” zoo— which he prefers calling animal orphanage—are confiscated. The angst in the decision to return the Padmashree that, ironically, also recognises his wildlife contribution, has been depicted well in the sequence.
Nana Patekar does exceedingly well to contain his natural flair for fiery acting and does justice to Prakash Amte’s sedate character. His long personal association with the Amtes may have helped him achieve that. He, however doesn’t copy Prakash’s body language.
Talented Sonali Kulkarni seamlessly slips into the character of Manda Amte. Her fight to keep the tribal child, Aarti with her, months after her ‘deceased’ father turns up to take possession of his child is extremely touching.
Presented by Zee Marathi, Pore’s film will definitely rivet and move you.