World Themes for Indian Cinema (Part 2 of 8)

Co-Blogging Series- Anand Chandrasekharan and Lazy Geek

Dr. Alan Grant: There are two kinds of boys – the ones who want to be astronomers and the ones who want to be astronauts. The astronomer, the paleontologist, gets to study these amazing things from a place of complete safety.
Young Eric: But you never go into space.
Dr. Alan Grant: It’s the difference between imagining and seeing.

Notwithstanding this thought-provoking conversation from Jurassic Park III, probably the only situation where seeing is more valuable than imagining is when you are blind.

The first post in this series focussed on biopics and the life of Ramanujam. This one carries that thread further, focussing on a life that has vision – literally! Affectionately called Dr.V on more than one occasion, it’s the story of Dr.G Venkataswamy.

Dr.G Venkataswamy

Arvind Eye Hospital, the institution he founded, is to many just another eye hospital (for instance, I used to see it everytime I have travelled to and from Coimbatore airport). But the way it has solved problems that would have stumped others is worth portraying. Quoting from
on Atanu Dey’s blog:

It costs Aravind about $10 to conduct a cataract operation. It costs hospitals in the United States about $1,650 to perform the same operation. Aravind keeps costs minimal by putting two or more patients in an operating room at the same time. Hospitals in the United States don’t allow more than one patient at a time in a surgery, but Aravind hasn’t experienced any problems with infections.

Aravind has managed to beat costs in every area of its service: The hospital’s own Aurolab, begun in 1992, pioneered the production of high-quality, low-cost intraocular lenses. Aurolab now produces 700,000 lenses per year, a quarter of which are used at Aravind. The rest are exported to countries all over the world — except to the United States. (In order for Aravind to get its lenses approved for sale in the United States, it would have to pay for an FDA study and a clinical study, which the hospital cannot afford.)

Dr.G Venkataswamy

This article breaks the life of Dr.V into a few wonderful chapters, and is filled with legendary stories. Try these on for size:

The Journey to Sight Begins with a Cyclone
As a young man, a brand-new obstetrician, he contracted rheumatoid arthritis and watched helplessly as his fingers slowly twisted, fused, and grew useless for delivering babies. So he started over, this time studying ophthalmology. He managed to design his own instruments to suit his hands, and these tools enabled him to do as many as 100 surgeries a day. He became the most admired cataract surgeon in India.

Twenty-five years later, he confronted another potentially crippling obstacle: retirement. In 1976, facing the prospect of social shelving at age 57, he opened a 12-bed eye hospital in his brother’s home in Madurai, India. Today, he runs five hospitals that perform more than 180,000 operations each year. Seventy percent of his patients are charity cases; the remaining 30% seek him out and pay for his services because the quality of his work is world-class. He is a doctor to the eyes and a leader to the soul.

“If Coca-Cola can sell billions of sodas and McDonald’s can sell billions of burgers,” asks Dr. V., “why can’t Aravind sell millions of sight-restoring operations, and, eventually, the belief in human perfection? With sight, people could be freed from hunger, fear, and poverty. You could perfect the body, then perfect the mind and the soul, and raise people’s level of thinking and acting.”

… an hour into the storm, the sky clears. The driver delivers us to Aravind Eye Hospital, on a wide, dusty street in Madurai. Vara, Dr. V.’s niece, is waiting to greet us. “How I envy you,” says Vara, 45, to me, “seeing the hospital for the first time. The thrill you’ll get.” She’s right, I’ll soon find. The cyclone is nothing compared to this.

In India, the big word in health care is ‘OM’, not ‘HMO’
It frustrates the folks at Aravind that Tuesdays are always slow. It means that they can’t do all that they could do.

Scissors and Thread and an Old-Master Painting in 10 Minutes Flat
“The surgery is an art,” Dr. Natchiar says. “You work in such a tiny space, and if you create a beautiful job, the painting is worth so much money. You put pictures in people’s eyes. You paint them stunning flowers, their children’s faces, or lines that are clear and sharp.”

… But spiritual teachings, inspirational and useful as they may be, still are not enough. “I am not an idea man,” says Dr. V. “The task is not to aspire to some heaven but to make everyday life divine.” When he switched to ophthalmology, he had to train himself to hold a knife and to perform cataract surgery despite his physical pain.

Marketing That Reaches the Deepest Part of the Market: Your Soul
They put a pair of glasses on people for whom the purchase represents a day and a half’s pay. “People can’t believe it,” says Dr. V. “Often they can see clearly for the first time in their lives. They usually say, ‘Thank you,’ and go away — with the glasses on. The next day, they come back ready to make the purchase. This is how we sell 1,000 pairs of eyeglasses per day.”

The New Age Group Is Alive and Well, and Meeting in India
[Dr.] Usha, who holds the record for most surgeries in a day (155), admits to conspiring with the nurses to send her more than her allotment of patients, a practice that Aravind doctors routinely engage in. On returning from a village camp running a fever of 102, she checks herself into the hospital. Dr. V. happens to arrive in the morning. “What are you doing here?” he asks. “I’m sick,” she says. “My fever is 104,” he tells her. “How high is yours?” She can’t bring herself to say, so she climbs out of bed and goes back to work.

The Future of Perfection
Why do adventure-travel companies escort people to the heights of the world but not to its depths? Perhaps because it’s easy up at the top of a mountain in Tibet or Chile to think that you’re getting enlightenment. A visit to southern India, a true topological depth, takes spiritual endurance. It forces you to examine your comfortable notions about yourself and about leadership: Your soul is tested more in the depths than it is at the heights.

Padmashree Dr.V’s To-do list is a story of courage, quiet self-confidence and a genuine desire to make a difference in the lives of fellow countrymen.

8 responses to “World Themes for Indian Cinema (Part 2 of 8)”

  1. balaji Avatar

    Kudos to u for bringing another inspiring personality back in to focus.


  2. laiju Avatar

    Just wondering if the “world themes for Indian cinemas” be restricted only to personalities ? Would it extend to “events” also ?


  3. Lazy Geek Avatar

    Yes. It would also include events and semi-fictious themes which may make for world themes.


  4. Lazy Geek Avatar

    Thanks Anti for the pointer. Convergent Cinema. As Outlook says we are collectively evolving this new phenomenon.


  5. senthil Avatar

    this is not about this blog..sorry for using this space ..just now read ur review on passion of the christ….im surprised how i could’nt see the ‘articulate’ guru during our ‘drive-in chat sessions’.All i saw was a computer whiz with tons of ‘kaadhal’ for cinema and listening to my gibberings and ‘dolby digital’
    sounds. I read moview reviews on P/O/C before but none excited me like this one of yours.Infact I could see the serious writing which brings in a clear narration of the very essence of movie. I love the detailing of the torture devices which shows your keen observation ( off -course from mani’s cell ).Infact it does’nt look like a professional sombers review.The flow depicts an outburst of a hardcore movie lover who appreciates both the technology and the creative part of the movie.

    “This movie is certainly not an entertainer. As some said in a review, that if this movie entertains you, you are a sadist. Also for kids, this movie would be hard to sit through. ”

    Probably thats why Jesus preached Love thy Neighbour. Co-incidental to the above lines, as type them, Kamalhassan yells through the speakers, Anbe Sivam… Endrum Anbe Sivam. Do you think timing can be more perfect than this ?

    wow..simply superb..simply fantastic..

    The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.

    Edwin Schlossberg

    ( I think u have that skill..)


  6. Anand C Avatar
    Anand C

    Laiju, part 3 is inspired by an event though not entirely based on one. Welcome your comments. There are definitely other “semi-fictitious events” based themes coming in the series, as G put it.


  7. Vinay Avatar

    Really interesting series… I really hope the themes are seen by the people who want to make films in the future….


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