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Science sells

Plots spun around science based themes can be just as entertaining as star-studded flicks

 
By Dinsa Sachan
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

In Delhi’s crammed Daryaganj area, an in vitro fertilisation (IVF) expert, who also runs a sperm bank on the side, desperately needs someone who can provide him with quality sperms. Flustered by the irrational demands of his customers—one wants a daughter who would be grow up to be a model, another a son who would play cricket like M S Dhoni—Baldev Chaddha (Annu Kapoor) is under immense pressure as his business staggers.

Just in time, he encounters 24-year-old Vicky Arora (Ayushmann Khurrana), whose widowed mother, Dolly, runs a small beauty parlour out of her home in Lajpat Nagar in south Delhi. It was like love at first blink. Something inexplicable about Vicky—perhaps his heartlessness in selling his dog off to a school kid because he wanted pocket money—lures him to the Punjabi lad. He stalks Vicky to malls, cricket practice and pubs, trying to convince him that he should donate sperm to his bank. “Yeh bhi koyi donate karne ki cheez hai,” Vicky would laugh him off.

sperm donorBut not for too long. After all, he has no job. His mother is the sole bread winner of the household. She has to pay for Vicky’s extraneous expenses and support her old mother-in-law, Biji. Her arthritis doesn’t help either. As Vicky embarks on this secret enterprise with Chaddha, which he likes to describe as “trading business” to his kin, wealth begins to pour in. Dolly even gets a makeover for her parlour.

Monetary luck translates into Vicky’s wobbling love life, as a divorced banker, Ashima Roy (Yami Gautam), falls for him, and they start an affair. However, the happy spell doesn’t last long as the cat is out of the bag. As the reality of Vicky’s “trading business” becomes known, his life comes crashing down like a pack of cards, consuming his conjugal bliss.

As Vicky looks to fix the fractures, the vagaries of living in a scientifically ignorant and prejudiced society emerge.

Vicky Donor is the epitome of a plot successfully built around one of the lesser-known scientific/medical themes. It does for sperm banks what Aamir-Khan starrer Taare Zamin Par did for dyslexic children and what perhaps Black did for Alzheimer’s disease—just that Vicky Donor is funny. It can be clubbed with the elite group of movies that bring to general consciousness a scientific topic, spin an entertaining yarn around it, and drive home a message. Though it’s quite clear director Shoojit Sirkar did not mean to be a messenger.

The film is a welcome detour from the hackneyed romantic plots which can’t seem to break out of the vicious cycles of love triangles, adultery and gangster themes. Shooting a science-based movie doesn’t have to be rocket science. When Ron Howard could explain (or at least create an illusion of comprehension) in layman words the difficult mathematical concept called Nash Equilibrium and bring out the demons of a schizophrenic brain on the screen in A Beautiful Mind, why can’t Indian directors do it. Some of the scientific issues surrounding the country today—nuclear power and its safety, for example—are potential minefields for successful plots. We just need new villains; the bald Mogambo needs to be replaced by bearded mining mafia, and the tuxedo-donned heads of chemical companies spewing poison into our water need to replace the Middle Eastern gangster. New villains will need new heroes—sperm donors, IAS officers, and environmental activists.

Hopefully, Vicky Donor will carry that message across to filmmakers that money, star power, and sex aren’t the only things that sell. And Vicky Donor shows—what with the priceless Biji-Dolly after-work, drinking scene and Vicky-Ashima’s lovemaking—that when you build your plot around scientific issues, you don’t have to do away with the conventional elements of entertainment.

Unlike romantic comedy protagonists of today, who are brought up in plush houses and whose only serious problem in life seems to be finding the right partner, Sircar’s characters have real issues. Dolly and Ashima are widows. Vicky is unemployed. Yet, despite the odds, the characters crack jokes and move on.
 
As an inevitable after-effect, the movie might inspire young, fertile men to land up in sperm banks to earn a few quick bucks, but as they’re going to realise it’s not all that simple. The remuneration is not all that attractive. A sperm undergoes stringent tests before it can be used, and that can take months. But in a country where sperm banks are mushrooming, and there aren’t enough donors because everyone thinks sperm donation is dirty business, this can’t be too bad a thing.

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