Ek Doctor ki Maut

What happens when mediocrity is encourages and merit is trampled upon? What happens when you work hard and do not get the recognition? What happens when instead of supporting good work, the system pulls down people who do good and hard work? I think and believe that we have all the answers to the above questions immaterial of wherever we work. A 1990 award winning film tries to address these various questions in a researcher's life. What is important in the system - is it discovery, originality or contacts with the right people. 'Ek Doctor ki Maut' (1990), directed by Tapan Sinha with brilliant actors like Pankaj Kapur, Shabana Azmi and Irfan Khan (yes he is there in the movie!) is the prototype of our Indian system of curbing talent and intellect at the cost of sycophancy, nepotism and bureaucracy. The story of an eccentric, but passionate and hard working scientist, Dr. Roy (Kapur) who is tirelessly and painstakingly working to find a cure for leprosy, the movie is a flawless portrayal of how this system will ruin you if you are original and novel, have fresh approach and thoughts just because there are jealous and mediocre people around you, not able to gulp down your success. Kapur lives with his wife Seema (Azmi) who has sacrificed domestic bliss for this fussy scientist. The initial reels of the film establish Kapur's nature and the tiffs with his wife. She complaints that he does not care for her and has left her lonely. He ignores all her pleas and instead spend endless hours working in a small and humble laboratory in his own house, waiting for that important scientific 'result'. A press reporter (Irfan Khan) publishes the story of his achievement of a possible vaccine for leprosy in the newspaper and then begins Dr. Roy's struggle ... a struggle against the medical community, a struggle against his own dear friend Orijit, a struggle against his dear ones and against a system which calls him a fake and a cheater. Despite his original work of research, Dr. Roy is humiliated, insulted by govt. officials who treat his work as insignificant and do not want him to achieve what he deserves. In his struggle and fight, Dr. Roy receives unflinching support from his mentor Prof. Kundu and his wife Seema as also a press reporter Amulya (played by Irfan Khan). His struggle and his passion for his work is worth admiring, not withstanding his degree and his job in a govt. hospital. With utmost dedication, he works and devotes himself to finding a vaccine which will be a boon for the countrymen, but he is defeated by the system and his own country-men. In the end, it is from a foreign shore that he receives acceptance but alas ... too late. The discovery done by him earlier and without much facilities is carried out successfully by American researchers and he is left disappointed. He decides in the end to leave the country for foreign shores, for better work and opportunities.

I viewed this movie from the point of view of a researcher. What does one do in research - try and work for the society, understand it better and contribute to solving human problems. But in a country like ours where intellectual work is the least important, researchers and the research community is treated like unimportant. Their work is not recognized, they face several bureaucratic hurdles and hence fed up with the system, they decide to leave the country for good. They feel helpless and frustrated and that is a major reason why no significant scientific discovery has taken place in our country since a long time. Because our priorities are not set right and we tend to give the least importance to people who do good work. Our institutions, our system is not socialized and built to give credit to good work. While I talk from a research point of view, this is true for every field.  Isn't it then obvious that whoever wants to make a good career will not want to stay in this country. 

The movie is based on the true life story of Dr. Subhas Mukhopadhyay, the genius "executed" by collective mediocrity , bureaucratic insensitivity and the chicanery of CPI(M) government in West Bengal.The half wits and the mediocre always find it difficult to accept a genius,even posthumously. Even as Indians are going great guns in countries other than India, we must wonder as a society why are we failing them? Are we doing justice to the work of scores of people like scientists, researchers, businessmen, social workers because of whom we find some hope in society. The movie left deep questions in my mind as to what role we are supposed to play in a society like ours which is so hypocritical - which honours some intellect and dis-honours and disregards the 'other'. Dr. Roy was that 'other'. A movie that leaves you with helplessness and pessimism ... !!! It is not just Dr. Roy who is dead, all of us in some way or the other also die this death each day!

Azmi and Kapur in 'Ek Doctor ki Maut'

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