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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Anandi Gopal Movie Review: Empowerment of Another Kind

Anandi Gopal recounts the poignant story of one of India’s first female doctors, married at nine-years-old to a widower almost 20 years her senior and a mother at 14.

This led to her wanting to become a doctor and her husband encouraged her to study a Medical Degree in America, at 19 years of age.

She graduated and returned to India, though tragically died before turning 22, having contracted tuberculosis while studying in the US.

As inspiring the story is, how impactful is this Sameer Vidwans film? Filme Shilmy reviews.

Breaking the Traditions and Customs

They say that behind every successful man is a woman.

However, Anandi Gopal is an exception to this traditional view.

Often in Indian historical films, powerful women are engulfed in a patriarchal world, where most of the men are against the protagonist.

However, in this movie, patriarchy is essayed in a positive and quite progressive manner.

In fact, this film symbolises what patriarchy should be.

Gopalrao Joshi (Lalit Prabhakar) is obstinate that his wife Anandi (Bhagyashree Milind) gets educated as he was strongly against women being bound by the conventions of society.

The director takes us through a lesser-known aspect of India.

An aspect which was way ahead of its time.

Contrary to other Indian men in society at that period, Gopalrao Joshi did not restrict his wife to just household chores but encouraged and urged her to educate herself.

In an era where a stereotypical family could not allow a widowed woman to work or cook, Gopalrao defied all traditions and customs to allow liberation.

Even teaching his wife English so that she can independently survive and make a name for herself is positively surprising to see.

A Balanced Portrayal of Equality

Vidwans shows both parts of empowerment.

Whilst predominantly we see Gopalrao being the driving force, Anandi too is shown to have a say in her life and she too expresses her own views without having to fear Male-dominance.

In fact, her biggest form of empowerment is the integrity and determination to become a doctor.

Even at a stage, where she is almost forced to convert religion, she stands her ground and prides over her identity.

It is quite interesting to see Anandi’s story narrated through the love story of a teenager and an elder widower.

Whilst this initially seems uncomfortable and awkward, the viewer eventually forgets the two protagonists as love interests.

Subsequently, the audience observes them as two compassionate human beings.

The main part of the story is told through Anandi’s narration.

If we look at the screen, all we see is a young, innocent teenager wearing a Nauvari saree and a Maharashtrian nathni, one would not imagine her to speak fluent English.

The narration style is quite ironic and this works very well.

Plus, Anandi Gopal’s life story is quite tragic. But Sameer Vidwans avoids glorifying the pain and sadness.

He, in turn, has a practical approach to making the film.

We are living in an era where gender equality is a major talking point and mainstream Indian cinema (Bollywood) is a testament to this.

For instance, we see males supporting females with their dreams in films like Dangal and Secret Superstar.

At the same time, we see married women balancing home-life with their passion in movies such as Tumhari Sulu and English Vinglish.

Given our current situation in life, Anandi Gopal proves that equality has been a long time coming.

An Important Film Highlighting Indian History

The film subtly showcases the trials and tribulations of society in British India.

We see times when Anandi is segregated due to the colour of her skin and her age.

But it is so refreshing to see that the movie does not showcase the stereotypical racism that has been depicted so many times in Indian cinema before.

However, it is not just limited to the British Raj.

We see topics such as New-born Infant Death, education and child marriage, as well as the cultural backlashes.

To see Indians of the same religion ostracising another group of Indians, almost forcing them to convert, is quite perturbing to see.

It is important that we learn from the history of India’s tortured past.

Nonetheless, it is comforting to see that even under colonisation, Indians did not allow suppression to hinder them from pursuing their dreams.

After Zee Studios brought Manikarnika‘s story, the production has presented another story of a valiant Indian/Maharashtrian women and hats off to them for doing so.

In fact, both films are patriotic at their core but are not drenched in nationalism and focus more on the human interest aspect.   

Final Word

There are so many positive elements to the movie and the flaws are quite minimal.

However, after quite a fast-paced first-half, it seems like the second half drags slightly and the pace becomes slower.

But with movies like Anandi Gopal, these minor glitches can be ignored because the subject matter is far more important to acknowledge and appreciate.

It is quite sad that many people were quite unaware that there have been so many heroes in our history who have strived for a better life, even during suppression.

One just hopes and wishes that films such as Anandi Gopal represent India at the Oscars.  

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 (4.5/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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