Rooted in realism
Marathi film, ‘Dr Prakash Baba Amte -The Real Hero’ is gaining international acclaim. The film ran to a packed theatre in Hyderabad too. Buoyed by the...
Marathi film, ‘Dr Prakash Baba Amte -The Real Hero’ is gaining international acclaim. The film ran to a packed theatre in Hyderabad too. Buoyed by the success, director Samruddhi Porey is ready with the Hindi version of the biopic
She is an advocate and a filmmaker. Her first film in Marathi on the theme of surrogacy ‘Mala Aai Vhaychay’ (I want to be a mother) fetched her several awards – national and international. Her second Marathi film, a biopic titled ‘Dr Prakash Baba Amte -The Real Hero’ starring Nana Patekar and Sonali Kulkarni (as Dr Prakash Amte & Dr Mandakini Amte) and Mohan Agashe (as Baba Amte), is much acclaimed and appreciated and is travelling on the international circuit too. Samruddhi Porey is ready with the Hindi version of the biopic titled ‘Hemalkasa’ (named after the place the doctor-couple has made their home for more than four decades). Dr Prakash Amte ran to a packed theatre in Hyderabad too. In this context one caught up with Samruddhi, exclusively regarding the film.
Coming from a non-film background it is interesting to see how Samruddhi turned a director. She did her graduation in micro-biology, then DMLT (a medical pathology lab technician course), and subsequently LLB. She also got married at the age of 20. Samruddhi has been a practising advocate in Mumbai working in the family court for the last 15 years. While doing so she came across a surrogacy case. “I realised there is a big racket and business in India on surrogate mothers. Most of the poor ladies are involved in that because of money and European women come to India to rent wombs.”
This prompted her to tell the story through a film and she did a diploma course at Bombay University to learn the technicalities of filmmaking. “Film is a more effective medium to say something. It was a good way of expressing. I read all the foreign books. I also tried being an Assistant Director on the sets. Being an advocate, it was a problem because I am a lady so people wondered how to make me an assistant and order me around on the sets. Now I feel good that they said no and I went to learn to become a director.” Samruddhi’s hidden talent and interest for pictures also surfaced. She was a bit of a raconteur and invariably used to tell her own story after seeing films. So this ability too helped her in turning director.
Samruddhi seems to be influenced by her milieu and her themes seem to be drawn from society. Her first Marathi film won two national awards and 37 international awards. For her second film she chose to tell the story of Dr Prakash Baba Amte. “I believe from deep within that we are all one. Society has given us all so many things but there are people deprived of minimum facilities like the adivasis. If we come forward to help with positivity and inspiration then I feel change will set in the world. In case of Dr Prakash Amte, I felt one man is doing such good work, which is not just inspirational in Maharashtra and India but for the world too.
At his place, animals like lion, tiger and squirrel stay together, play and eat. It’s a unique example for the world. Without taking money, Dr Prakash has been treating people for 45 years. Being Baba Amte’s son and an MS he could have got a bigger job in any part of the world, but he chose such a remote place (Hemalkasa) and wanted to work for the people. His wife Mandakini supports him in his life-long dream and endeavour - it’s such a beautiful love story. It’s all so real and makes for a good story telling. You are also connected socially as a human being.”
Doing a film on Dr Prakash Amte entailed research. And Samruddhi did not shy away from going to Hemalkasa which is surrounded by dense jungles and naxalites. She spent three and half years researching and talking to Dr Prakash. “I had heard that he won awards. I saw a short film of Prakashji playing with the tiger. When I went to Hemalkasa, I encountered a totally different world. Because of naxalites no government officials go and there is no development there. People inside are living a very strange life. I went deep into the jungles and met people, lived there and after three and a half years of study, I have made this film.”
Nana Patekar and Sonali Kulkarni were cast in the principal roles of Dr Prakash and Dr Mandakini. “Prakash Amte is a living legend. Nana Patekar has been going to Baba Amte’s place for the last 40 years and is very emotionally attached to the Amte family and I realised Nana is the best option. He can live this life, this role. When I narrated the screenplay I thought he should play Baba Amte and I went to ask him and just as I finished narrating the last line he said the screenplay is excellent and that he wants to play Prakash. I had made only one film and even though I got two national and other awards for it I was a junior in front of Nana. Since he himself asked for this role, I realised we can reach maximum people.
He’s the badshah and people love him. Now people are going into the theatres saying Nana and come out with Prakash on their lips. This is a very big achievement for the filmmaker as well as Nana. “Sonali is a talented actress and was happy to get this kind of a role. Her chemistry with Nana was good. Sonali is a complete actress in the director’s hands. She understood every scene and did a retake if she felt she was not satisfied. The three of us were a good combination and we thought on the same lines. We did argue but it was for the film’s sake.”
Braving all challenges Samruddhi shot the film in real locations in Hemalkasa. “It is difficult for a normal person to go there. The jungle is so dense that if you put your leg down you find scorpions and snakes. It gets dark by 3.30pm and 4 pm. I had to be realistic. I had to audition people in Hemalkasa and choose people from there. The film had to be authentic.”
“The film is doing well. In Maharashtra it is running house full. It was selected as the only Indian film in the Montreal International festival and also officially in the Indian panorama in the forthcoming IFFI, Goa. I am enrolling the film in festivals where I can.”
The film was shown to Dr Prakash in the Singapore International film Festival where he and Dr Mandakini were the special guests. “After the film ended he was crying for quite some time. He said that he had wondered many times whether he would live or die but now he shall remain alive. He put his hand on my head and said - Did you keep your camera on me from my birth? You have shown things which I did not even tell you like how I spoke to my mother in my childhood. His hand on my head is bigger than an Oscar to me. Mandakini Ma’am also saw the film and said - “We have come this far; you have brought all what we went through – it was that realistic. We did the work as work, we didn’t think what we did was special. We are seeing our life again in this life!”
Samruddhi later remade the Hindi version ‘Hemalkasa’ as she wanted it to reach many people. So it was re-shot as a separate film. ‘Hemalkasa’ was the closing film at the London International Film Festival and it is slated to release in India shortly. “I also made a short film on the real Dr Prakash Amte. Whatever I show in the film, I show the essence of it in the two-minute short film – like a thread – the first batch he started, the first Adivasi who becomes a doctor, the tiger he plays with... So people are amazed at how uniquely this man functions. It also makes them wonder as to what they are doing for others.”
Samruddhi has not thought about her next project. “I am not here to compete and make film after film. When I have a story to tell I will do so,” says this woman of many interests. She feels no Indian women should be dependent but should make her own place in society realising her talent and potential.”