Doctor G is two films in one. The first half of the film is sad cringefest, filled with bad jokes that evoke no laughter, stereotypical characters, and some bad funky background score that is very out of place in the 21st century. Then, there is a post-interval part, which feels like a new film altogether. This one has has several moments that will leave a lump in your throat. This coming-of-age drama takes the Ayushmann Khurrana formula to the extreme. But despite the jarring nature of the film, it remains watchable (largely) due to the performances of Ayushmann and Shefali Shah. (Also read: Rakul Preet Singh ‘guarantees’ fans can watch Doctor G with family)
Doctor G is a typical Ayushmann Khurrana film. It’s about a small town guy, stuck in a situation that society considers unusual. Over time, with the help of his family and friends, he learns that there is more to life than people’s perceptions and he overcomes his hesitations and embraces his flaws. I just described the plot of Doctor G. Or is it the plot of Badhaai Ho or Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui or even Vicky Donor? You get the drift. The taboo subject here is gynaecology and Ayushmann is the only male doctor in this supposed all-woman world at a Bhopal medical college.
The protagonist is sexist and the film establishes it quite clearly. It doesn’t want you to like Dr Uday Gupta, but relate to him, at least from the middle-class, small-town, patriarchal setup you have seen all around you. So he isn’t likeable but surely relatable. Ayushmann does the rest. Getting into the skin of a character like this is too easy for him now, but sadly, it has started to look repetitive. It’s not fresh when the same template is presented with a new garnish every year.
And the film begins poorly. The social comedy doesn’t get its comedy aspect quite right. The jokes about female or male anatomy and simulating childbirth on a man are pretty juvenile and stale by now. The first hour of the film is cringe-a-minute, where you begin to wonder if there is a point to all this. That cringefest is stopped dead in its tracks the moment Shefali Shah appears on screen. As the gynaecology department head Dr Nandini, she is every bit as intimidating and charming as we can hope her to be. Just wish there was more of her and less of whatever the writers were trying to pass off as comedy.
The film introduces a number of characters as Uday enters his college unwillingly and is ragged by all his seniors there. And then most of those characters disappear never to be seen again. It’s an editing flaw that makes several scenes pointless, and keeping track of what is happening a bit bothersome. Amid this, Ayushmann coasts through, even though he too looks a bit jaded by what the script has offered him. Rakul Preet Singh as his senior (and eventual love interest) Dr Fatima is decent but has very little to offer to the story except for a few strong scenes where she shows Uday the mirror. But the over-the-top and oversmart dialogue ruins many such moments.
But after the interval, a whole different movie resumes. You can be excused if you wonder if you have wandered into the wrong auditorium. Because post-interval, Doctor G is sensitive, emotional, heartwarming, and seldom misses a beat, even though it does get melodramatic in its climax. But it still manages to avoid being preachy, which is a big win for a film handling issues like gender disparity and medical ethics. The same writing that holds Doctor G back in the first half sets it free in the second. It’s bizarre but no complaints from my side on the improvement, at least.
Ayushmann Khurrana is breezy but he should note that the trope, the formula is starting to get old now. He needs to reinvent before it’s too late. Rakul Preet has very less to do in the film, which is sad because she is earnest and likeable in whatever scenes she has. The star, of course, is Shefali Shah. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. She is in the form of her life right now and is easily one of the finest actors in the country. She proves it here once again, balancing authority with sensitivity so seamlessly. The surprise package of the film for me was Ayesha Kaduskar, who plays a teenager in love with a much older married man. The maturity and grace with which she has handled the challenging and brief role is admirable.
Doctor G could have been a much better movie. But looking at the first half, one realises it could have been much worse as well. In the end, it’s a middling coming-of-age social drama that will find its audience. It manages to stay non-preachy and even though it attempts to give clean humour, does get cringey in parts. What saves it are the actors, who breathe new life into a tired script. Go watch it for them, if nothing else!