Review: ‘Doctor G,’ starring Ayushmann Khurrana, Rakul Preet Singh and Shefali Shah

November 1, 2022

by Carla Hay

Ayushmann Khurrana and Rakul Preet Singh in “Doctor G” (Photo courtesy of Viacom18 Studios)

“Doctor G”

Directed by Anubhuti Kashyap

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Bhopal, India, the comedy/drama film “Doctor G” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A doctor wants his specialty to be orthopedics, but instead finds himself as the only man in an obstestrics/gynecology (OB/GYN) program, much to his dismay, because he thinks OB/GYN doctors should be mostly women.

Culture Audience: “Doctor G” will appeal primarily to people who like watching sufficiently entertaining movies about how men and women handle “the battle of the sexes,” even if some of the scenarios in these movies are a little far-fetched.

Shefali Shah in “Doctor G” (Photo courtesy of Viacom18 Studios)

The mildly amusing film “Doctor G” pokes fun at the sexist idea that certain medical practices should be handled primarily by one gender. It’s a breezy comedy/drama that handles issues of gender equality in a somewhat predictable but entertaining way. The last third of the movie rushes in a lot of overly contrived plot developments, but the movie’s would-be romance doesn’t necessarily play into viewers’ expectations.

Directed by Anubhuti Kashyap, “Doctor G” is a combination of slapstick comedy, musical numbers and emotional drama. The mixture doesn’t always flow smoothly, but when it works, it works well enough to keep viewers engaged in the characters and the story. The “Doctor G” screenplay was co-written by Kashyap, Saurabh Bharat, Sumit Saxena and Vishal Wagh.

The title character of “Doctor G” (and the movie’s protagonist) is Dr. Uday “Gudda” Gupta (played by Ayushmann Khurrana), a medical school graduate, who is about to continue his medical training at the Bhopal Institute of Medical Sciences in Bhopal, India. Uday has had a longtime goal of being an orthopedic doctor. However, he finds out that the Bhopal Institute has rejected his application in the orthopedic program because his entrance exam’s test scores weren’t high enough.

Instead, he is offered a spot in the Bhopal Institute’s gynecology program—and he’s not happy about it at all. “I can’t treat body parts I don’t have,” Uday whines. (In India, the OB/GYN medical practice is often generally referred to as gynecology.) Uday finds out that another medical school graduate named Priyanka Singh (played by Sharvari Deshpande) got accepted into the Bhopal Institute’s orthopedic program.

Uday thinks that women, not men, should be OB/GYN doctors, so he approaches Priyanka and asks her to switch her orthopedic program enrollment with his at the OB/GYN enrollment program. Priyanka adamantly refuses, because she says she earned her place in the orthopedic program, and she’s not going to give up this opportunity for anyone. Around the same time that Uday gets this news, his girlfriend Ruchi (played by Karishma Singh), who was in the same graduating class at the medical school, breaks up with him.

Needless to say, bitter and rejected Uday doesn’t have the highest opinion of women at this point in his life. In the movie’s opening scene, he is shown talking with his best friend Abhishek “Chaddi” Chandel (played by Abhay Chintamani Mishr) about what he thinks should be the social constructs of dating. Uday firmly believes that men and women who only platonically date each other are just wasting their time. Uday thinks that people who date each other for a certain period of time might has well eventually have sex with each other.

Throughout most of the movie, Uday shows that he doesn’t hate women but that he has a very sexist mindset, where he believes in strict gender roles on what men and women can and cannot do with their careers. The movie doesn’t really explain where he got this attitude. Uday’s widowed mother Shobha Gupta (played by Sheeba Chaddha) is sassy and independent-minded. She does cooking videos on social media, with the hope that she will become a social media star for her cooking. Uday sometimes gets embarrassed when his mother hints that she wants to spice up her love life by getting back into the dating scene.

Uday has a distant cousin named Dr. Ashok Gupta (played by Indraneil Sengupta), who is an orthopedic surgeon. Uday admires Ashok and thinks of him as a brotherly mentor. And so, Uday asks Ashok for advice on what to do about enrolling in Bhopal Institute of Medical Sciences as an OB/GYN trainee. Ashok suggests that Uday enroll in the program and apply to transfer to the orthopedic program when the time is right.

Ashok is a married father in his 40s, but he has a creepy fascination with a 17-year-old girl named Kavya Sharma (played by Ayesha Kaduskar), whom Ashok introduces to Uday as a “friend.” Considering how much Ashok and Kavya hang out with each other and flirt with each other, it would make any person with common sense start to wonder if Ashok and Kavya are really “just friends.” A few plot developments in the movie eventually address this inappropriate relationship.

Uday’s enrollment in the OB/GYN program doesn’t get off to a great start. He begins the program 10 days after classes have started for the semester. And so, he’s already not made a good impression on Dr. Nandini Srivastav (played by the Shefali Shah), the no-nonsense head of the institute’s gynecology department. Uday, who is already insecure about women, is in for a shock when he finds out that he’s the only man in the gynecology program.

This huge gender imbalance is the most unrealistic part of the movie, because men (especially in patriarchal countries such as India) typically have had more access and resources to go to medical school and become doctors. Therefore, in most countries, most OB/GYN doctors are men. As more women become doctors, there are some places that are closing the gender gap, but men in a lot of cultures typically get more encouragement and privileges than women to become doctors.

The contrivance of Uday being the only man in his gynecology training is used for numerous comedic scenarios that are intended to humble Uday and make him see the error of his sexist ways. Many of the women haze him and pull pranks on him, since he’s the late newcomer to the program. He’s forced to do things so that he can understand a female point of view, such as wear a skirt or pretend that he’s a woman about to give birth.

Meanwhile, one of the program’s brightest students is Dr. Fatima Siddiqui (played by Rakul Preet Singh), who is a year or two ahead of Uday in the program. Fatima is a confident extrovert. Fatima’s best friend at the institute is Dr. Kumudlatha Pamulparthi Diwakaran (played by Shraddha Jain), who likes people to call her KLPD as a nickname. Fatima and KLPD, who like to tease Uday about his discomfort in being the institute’s gynecology program, have their own nickname for him: Dr. Nipples.

As Uday spends more time with Fatima, he becomes more attracted to her, and the feeling might be mutual. However, there’s a big obstacle to this possible romance: Fatima is engaged to marry another man named Arif Qureshi (played by Paresh Pahuja) in a love match, not an arranged marriage. Meanwhile, Uday experiences some highs and lows on the job as an OB/GYN trainee. He predictably clashes with Dr. Srivastav, who tells Uday at one point to “lose his male touch”—in other words, stop being a male chauvinist.

“Doctor G” can at times be melodramatic but then clumsily transition to a lighthearted musical number or a comedic scene to lighten the mood. All of the actors handle their roles with skill, but there’s nothing particularly outstanding about their performances. The movie falls into some “love triangle” stereotypes in some ways, while in other ways, there some expected surprises.

Those surprises are what make “Doctor G” slightly better than the average movie of this type. It’s expected that Uday will have a personal transformation. But the challenge of the movie is to make that transformation look authentic. In that respect, “Doctor G” succeeds enough for it to be an enjoyable diversion for viewers who want to watch a relatively lightweight movie about how men and women can respectfully learn from each other.

Viacom18 Studios released “Doctor G” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on October 14, 2022.

Review: ‘Badhaai Do,’ starring Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar

April 25, 2022

by Carla Hay

Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar in “Badhaai Do” (Photo courtesy of Zee Studios)

“Badhaai Do”

Directed by Harshavardhan Kulkarni

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city in India, the comedy/drama film “Badhaai Do” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A gay man and a lesbian, who are both in the closet about their sexualities, decide to get married to each other to throw off suspicion from their families, but complications ensue when they both meet real love partners. 

Culture Audience: “Badhaai Do” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in stories of how LGBTQ people live in India, where homophobia is encouraged and practiced by much of society.

Chum Darang, Bhumi Pednekar and Rajkummar Rao in “Badhaai Do” (Photo courtesy of Zee Studios)

“Badhaai Do” is a rare LGBTQ Bollywood film that achieves a balancing act of comedy and drama. It’s about the damage caused by homophobia and the courage it takes to live authentically. The main cast members’ charismatic performances make this movie a winner. It’s a story that’s both sobering and heartwarming.

Directed by Harshavardhan Kulkarnia, “Badhaai Do” (which translates to “Felicitations Due” in English) is a witty, often-sarcastic and engaging film that has a brisk pace that doesn’t make it seem the movie is really two hours and 27 minutes long, even though it is. Kulkarnia co-wrote the “Badhaai Do” screenplay with Suman Adhikary and Akshat Ghildial. There are some parts of the movie that have a heightened tone of a screwball comedy, but the movie does not veer too far off from reality, except for the expected Bollywood musical interludes where the characters begin singing and dancing to their dialogue.

In “Badhaai Do” (which takes place in an unnamed city in India), a gay man and a lesbian get married to each other, because they’re hiding their true sexualities from almost everyone they know, including their families who have been pressuring them to have heterosexual marriages. The two people in this closeted couple are police officer Shardul Thakur (played by Rajkummar Rao) and physical education teacher Suman “Sumi” Singh (played by Bhumi Pednekar), who are both in their early 30s.

Shardul comes from a large family of women, including his unnamed widowed mother (played by Sheeba Chaddha), who are all pressuring him to get married to a woman. As expected, Shardul’s female relatives have also been playing matchmaker by trying to set him up with women whom they think could be a suitable wife for Shardul. He pretends that he’s interested, even though he knows that he’s not sexually attracted to women.

Sumi was once engaged to a man, who died six years ago in a tragic accident. She hasn’t had a serious boyfriend since then, but her conservative parents Prem Singh (played by Nitesh Pandey) and his wife Mrs. Singh (played by Loveleen Mishra) are expressing concerns to Sumi that she hasn’t moved on and found someone else to marry. Sumi and her brother Naman Singh (played by Vyom Yadav), who is 10 years younger than she is, still live with their parents. Naman has a bratty and sexist attitude about Sumi being an unmarried woman at her age, and he often makes snide comments to her about her marital status.

Even though Sumi can’t bring home any women she dates, Sumi still tries to find a love partner. She has been talking to someone on a lesbian dating app. But when she meets this possible love interest in person, she finds out that it’s really a young man, who tries to get Sumi to date him.

Sumi refuses to date him, so he starts harassing her and threatens to tell her family and friends that she’s a lesbian. Sumi is a feisty person who’s not afraid to stand up for herself, so she goes to the police to report this harassment. It’s how Sumi ends up meeting Shardul, who takes the report. It’s also how he finds out that Sumi is a lesbian. Shardul gets rid of the harasser by smacking him around—not bad enough where medical treatment is needed, but enough to scare someone away.

At work, Shardul is so fearful about revealing that he’s gay, he overcompensates by saying homophobic things. For example, early in the movie, Shardul and a police co-worker are in a local park when they catch two men who are about to be in a compromising sexual situation. Shardul and his colleague interrupt this tryst before things go further and tell the men to leave. Shardul makes a big show of expressing disgust with gay people, as if to say, “I’m not one of them!”

It just so happens that Sumi is nearby in the park at the same time. Shardul sees her sitting on a park bench by herself and strikes up a conversation with her. They end up talking about how their families are pressuring them to get married. And so, Shardul then confesses to Sumi that he’s gay and in the closet.

Shardul suggests to Sumi that they pretend to date each other and then get married, in order to “get our families off of our backs.” Shardul also says that he and Sumi can live like roommates. And because Shardul is a police officer, he tells Sumi that he can probably protect her better than most other people could.

Sumi is skeptical about this idea at first, but she eventually agrees. Shardul and Sumi’s short “courtship” soon turns to marriage. The movie’s wedding predictably has the most elaborate musical scenes in “Badhaai Do.”

But there are some big problems to living this lie of a phony marriage. Around the time that Sumi and Shardul concoct their fake romance, Sumi meets and begins dating Rimjhim Jongkey (played by Chum Darang), a confident woman who works as a hospital employee who processes lab samples. (The movie has some scatalogical comedy because Rimjhim deals with stool samples. Sumi meets Rimjihm because Sumi dropped of her own stool sample at the hospital.)

Sumi and Rimjhim have an instant mutual attraction, they begin dating, and they end up falling in love with each other. Rimjhim knows almost from the beginning that Sumi is pretending to be in a romance with Shardul. Rimjhim doesn’t really approve of this deception, but she goes along with it because she understands what’s at stake: Sumi’s family could disown Sumi if they found out that she’s a lesbian. (None of this spoiler information, because it’s in the movie’s trailer.)

Rimjhim lives openly as a lesbian/queer woman because she says that she doesn’t have any family members living in India. If she did, Rimjhim says that she would probably have to hide her true sexuality too. After Shardul and Sumi get married and move in together, Rimjhim spends so much time in their apartment, she essentially starts living there too.

If anyone notices that Rimjhim has spent the night at the apartment, Shardul tells people he knows that Rimjhim is Sumi’s cousin, while Sumi tells people she knows that Rimjhim is Shardul’s cousin. It’s a flimsy lie that’s bound to unravel if people who know Shardul and Sumi start talking to each other about Rimjhim.

As for Shardul’s real love life, his is more complicated than Sumi’s. When Shardul and Sumi met, he was already in a long-distance romance with a man who’s about 10 years younger: a graduate business student named Kabir (played by Deepak Aurora), who might not have the same feelings for Shardul that Shardul has for him. Kabir meets up with Shardul (at Shardul’s invitation) at the resort where Shardul and Sumi are having their “honeymoon.”

Soap-opera-styled drama ensues, as well as some hilarity when Shardul and Sumi desperately try to fool their family through staged photos that Shardul and Sumi are on a romantic vacation together. More backstory about Shardul’s love life is revealed which somewhat explains the patterns of mistakes he makes in his relationships. And then, things get more complicated when Shardul meets and has a mutual attraction to an attorney named Guru Narayan (played by Gulshan Devaiah), who is an obvious better match for Shardul than Kabir.

During this fake marriage, Shardul and Sumi sometimes clash with each other over certain issues. One of those issues is about parenting. Sumi says she has always wanted to be a mother, and she’s thinking about adopting a child. Shardul is adamant that he’s not ready to become a parent. Sumi accuses Shardul of being selfish and immature. Shardul accuses Sumi of being demanding and unreasonable.

They also bring some emotional baggage to the relationship. Although Sumi wasn’t romantically in love with her fiancé who died, she loved him as a friend. And so, Sumi is still dealing with grief over his death. Shardul has some unresolved issues with how his first big love affair ended and why it’s affected his fear to live openly as a gay man.

The movie’s plot has a few twists and turns, some of which are more expected than others. Rao and Pednekar give admirable performances that will make audiences root for Sumi and Shardul in the highs and lows of their unconventional relationship. (The realistic homophobia shown in the movie is heartbreaking, but it’s balanced out with moments of LGBTQ pride and self-confidence.) “Badhaai Do” shows in exemplary ways that no matter what people’s sexualities are, everyone deserves a chance to be happy, wherever they can find their personal joy that doesn’t hurt anyone else.

Zee Studios released “Badhaai Do” in select U.S. cinemas on February 11, 2022, the same date that the movie was released in several other countries, including India, Australia, Singapore, France and Ireland. “Badhaai Do” is also available on Netflix.

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