Dr. Aditya Deshmukh, a renowned homeopathic doctor, is being interviewed on a television channel. During the program, he is also answering direct telephonic questions asked by viewers. Over the years, he has cured many patients and won the hearts of the public. Many are eager to know the story of his life. During the interview-cum-dialogue with the viewers, there is a call from one Sarjerao, who bluntly asks the doctor when he (the doctor) would cure his (Sarjerao’s) wife, who has been under the doctor’s treatment. Sarjerao states that she has not benefited from the doctor’s medicines. Before Dr. Deshmukh can comprehend what Sarjerao is saying, the anchor mentions a news report to the effect that homeopathy is a ‘fake science’ and asks the doctor how he would respond to it. Asked one after the other, these questions perplex and almost embarrass the doctor, but the anchor winds up the show, telling the viewers that the doctor would respond to the aforesaid questions the following week.
Sarjerao (Kishor Kadam) is employed in a government office. No other doctor is willing to treat his wife, who is suffering from motor neuron disease. Her body has no sensation below the waist and eventually, her entire body could become insensate. Hence Sarjerao has come to Dr. Deshmukh as the last resort for saving his wife’s life. After examining her and diagnosing her illness, Dr. Deshmukh tells Sarjerao that the illness cannot be completely cured, but nevertheless assures him that he would try his best to contain its spread in the patient’s body. He begins the treatment, which initially succeeds, as the lady’s body responds well and the disease actually stops spreading. She shows remarkable improvement.
Unfortunately, the improvement is short-lived. After some time, the patient’s body stops responding to the treatment and her condition begins to deteriorate. And here a different Sarjerao emerges. While earlier he had behaved and interacted with Dr. Deshmukh in a respectful manner, he now starts harassing the doctor. He also tries to misguide other patients about Dr. Deshmukh. Even after his wife is discharged from hospital, he refuses to take her home and insists that the doctor must cure her. Finally, he embarrasses the doctor by calling him during the television program mentioned in the beginning.
While preparing to deal with the situation created by Sarjerao, as also to answer the charges against homeopathy leveled in the television program, Dr. Deshmukh meets a journalist called Renu (Neelam Shirke). Meanwhile, following a complaint lodged by Sarjerao, police inspector Shinde (Siddheshwar Zadbuke) comes to investigate. The doctor wonders whether his fifteen years of practice would suddenly come to naught. However, as he is about to go for the telecast of the second part of the program, his wife (Neelambari) reassures him that the truth would ultimately prevail. Does he win in the end? Is Sarjerao’s duplicity exposed? One should see the film and get the answers to these questions. It may only be said here that the doctor’s long-standing, well-deserved reputation is not compromised.
The film brings us face to face with the issue of doctor-patient relations and with the dramatic moments in a doctor’s life when he has to deal with an unscrupulous man like Sarjerao. It is based on the experiences of Dr. Amarsinh Nikam, who has been practicing homeopathy in Pimpri for many years now; the basic story idea is also his. The film presents the case for homeopathy, but it is not a documentary propagating or eulogizing homeopathy. What happens here can well happen in the life of any doctor practicing any system of medicine. Dr. Deshmukh happens to be a homeopath and so homeopathy – together with the debates and controversies about it as well as its strengths – becomes the subject or theme of the film. The director, Yogesh Gosavi, has conceived and set a framework for the film’s narrative and has adhered to it throughout. He holds the viewer’s attention despite the subject being so new. The first film on homeopathy in the world, it is also good and wholesome as a film.
After Shwaas, Sandip Kulkarni again plays a doctor. His role is as powerful as one in an Amitabh Bachchan film. His portrayal of the doctor’s character, in all its aspects and nuances, is brilliant and life-like; the doctor’s sensitivity and straightforwardness, his hard work, as well as his anguish when false charges are leveled against him – everything comes through naturally and effectively. Sandip Kulkarni almost becomes Dr. Aditya Deshmukh; and only by means of his body language, without the help of a major operation in progress shot from various angles, fantastic car chases, or the various other usual superhuman antics of our film heroes. As a result, the viewer wants him to win in the end. Kulkarni is matched by the equally brilliant performance by Kishor Kadam who plays Sarjerao. Especially, the stark contrast between Sarjerao’s initial humility and submissiveness and subsequent cunning and duplicity comes through convincingly, adding that extra edge to the tension in the clash between Sarjerao and Dr. Deshmukh.
The film is structured around the manner in which homeopathy works; and therefore, so to speak, homeopathy emerges as a character by itself. To put it a bit differently, homeopathy is to this film what hockey was to Chak De India or Cricket to Lagaan. Dr. Deshmukh treats patients even in far-flung, inaccessible areas, demonstrating in the process how homeopathy is effective in treating serious diseases. He is determined to open a homeopathic hospital. Through little episodes, he tries to explain how homeopathy is a complete system of treatment and to clear many a misunderstanding about it. The credit for this goes to the screenplay-and-dialogue writers Tejas Deuskar and Gautam Poddar. Renu and inspector Shinde have an important role in the climax. Neelam Shirke and Siddheshwar Zadbuke, respectively, play them well and are impressive, although, basically, there is limited scope for others in this clash between Sarjerao and Dr. Deshmukh. Thanks to the contributions of the screenplay-and-dialogue writers as well as the actors, the film does not go into documentary mode and therefore leaves an impact. The producer wanted to experiment, to attempt something new, everyone has done their bit to make the experiment successful and have delivered an excellent film. Now, it is up to the viewers to go to the theatres and watch it.
The clash between Sandip Kulkarni and Kishor Kadam is somewhat reminiscent of a similar clash between Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan in the film Shakti many years ago. Of course, Shakti was a routine Hindi masala film in which various methods and techniques were used to exacerbate the clash between father and son. In Pratisaad, in contrast, there is none of that. The two protagonists primarily represent truth and untruth – or good and evil – and their primary ‘weapon’ is just their respective body language. The clash in Shakti had, so to say, ended in a ‘draw’ – and so does the clash here in Pratisaad.
In a way, both the characters, Dr. Deshmukh and Sarjerao, plead the case of homeopathy, perhaps its different facets and perhaps from different angles. Homeopathy is a system of medicine that is premised on the existence of, first, the mind and secondly, a ‘vital force’. It has no side effects. It not only cures the disease, but removes its cause. It is very important in homeopathy to know the complete history of the patient. The doctor obtains this by asking the patient numerous questions calling for the minutest details of the patient’s life; so much so that the questions may even irritate the patient. But, these details are vital for the doctor to know, because he has to determine and change his medicines accordingly. In other words, the doctor tries to understand or fathom the patient’s personality through these details and then gives medicines that are suitable for that personality.
Just as a homeopath is in search of the personality of his patient, an actor is in search of the ‘personality’ of his role. In this film, Sandip Kulkarni and Kishor Kadam have undertaken this search in respect of their respective roles with sincerity and dedication. (And when you have sincerity and dedication, there is no need for any gimmicks, any ‘different’ or exceptional make-up, etc.) Such an actor is actually conducting a conversation – a dialogue, rather – with the viewer, as the two come on the same wavelength.
So it is, in this film, between the Kulkarni-Kadam duo and the viewer. Discerning viewers must not miss it and is bound to be liked not only by the supporters of homeopathy, but also by those who know a little or even nothing about homeopathy.
There have been films in the past about various fields of life, some also about the medical field. “Pratisaad – The Response” is about homeopathy, the complete system of treatment. Scaling new heights, the artists have given a clarion call to the viewer – who must now come out with enthusiastic ‘response’!