An ode to a do-gooder

Oct 05, 2014, 01:15 IST | Ashlesha Athavale

Director Samruddhi Porey decided to co-produce her upcoming film after renowned producers turned it down. The movie releases this week and highlights Dr Prakash Amte’s work with Gadchiroli’s tribals 

As a child, Samruddhi Porey was envious of her best friend’s father having the prefix ‘Dr’ before his name. While growing up, she longed for the tag but became a microbiologist. After marriage, she ended up studying law. 

Destiny later made Porey a filmmaker and today, after earning critical acclaim and two national awards for her first film, Mala Aai Vhaychay, she no longer needs a tag with her name to feel good.

Samruddhi Porey directs Nana Patekar and Sonali Kulkarni on the sets of her film

On October 10, Porey releases her second film, Dr Prakash Baba Amte — The Real Hero, which has been made in two languages, Marathi and Hindi, and will be released with English subtitles in a third print. It is also titled Hemalkasa and has been screened at international films festivals. Porey has written the screenplay, dialogues and has directed the movie.

Her film tells the story of the lives of Magsaysay award winners, Dr Prakash Amte (played by Nana Patekar) and his wife, Mandakini (played by Sonali Kulkarni), among the Madia Gond tribals of Gadchiroli, living in Hemalkasa. The Amtes were disturbed by their appalling living conditions and decided to live and work there for over 40 years.

Soon after Dr Prakash earned his degree, Baba Amte took him to Hemalkasa for a picnic. The former was moved by the tribals’ plight and decided to dedicate his life to their cause. Dr Prakash also works toward issues that crop up due to Naxalism and global warming. He educated Naxalites’ children in spite of being accused of aiding them. He also looked after orphaned animals in the area.

Porey is overwhelmed by the Amte family’s reaction to her film. “Dr Prakash was teary-eyed at times, and amused at others. After the film ended, he placed his hand on my head and asked, ‘Was your camera switched on since I was born?’ There can be no greater compliment than that. Dr Mandakini said the couple had forgotten some details of their lives, and relived them with my film. That is my biggest award,” she says.

Porey spent almost three years making the film, and became a filmmaker by chance. “I was the legal advisor for a film and the makers realised I knew a lot about the subject, so they asked me to write the screenplay,” she adds.

She then did a course in filmmaking from the University of Mumbai.
After no producer took on Dr Prakash Baba Amte, Porey became co-producer of the film, too. “Many well-known producers turned me down. One actually said, ‘Put an item number in it with a tribal girl covered in leaves’,” she says disgustedly.

“I am glad I made the film my way, and hope the audience is inspired enough to donate to it,” says Porey.

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