Eight years ago, director Shoojit Sircar's Vicky Donor, starring Ayushmann Khurrana and Yami Gautam, shifted the ideas of masculinity in Bollywood. Daring, innovative, sensitive, surprising - there aren't enough adjectives to describe Vicky Donor, which cleverly subverts the toxic masculinity of its lead character by challenging the issues that complicate men's so-called experience of being men.
The film represents a break from mainstream cinema, which is usually intent on depicting traditional masculine ideals, and follows the story of a young Punjabi Delhi boy, Vicky Arora (Ayushmann Khurrana), who is constantly nagged by his mother (Dolly Ahluwalia) for wasting most of his time procrastinating and playing cricket.
Only infertility expert Dr Baldev Chaddha (Annu Kapoor) spots carefree Vicky's true potential as he concludes that the latter could be that sperm donor he has been looking for. Though initially reluctant due to the nature of the profession, Vicky eventually gives in into Dr Chadda's ways when the latter indirectly questions his ability to become a father. Turns out Dr Chaddha gets his "Alexander the Great" as Vicky's sperm sample is unbelievably outstanding.
But the fact that the most fertile man in the world cannot have his own child due to his wife's (Ashima Roy, played by Yami Gautam) inability to conceive is where the film strips Vicky's misplaced entitlement off him. Sircar and writer Juhi Chaturvedi's treatment of the subject is soaked with intelligence, decency and, above all, supreme understanding of the way in which one’s life’s circumstances shape consciousness.
Vicky’s fertility, which was once a blessing for him and his source of making some easy money, soon becomes the reason for his vulnerability and loneliness that he experiences after Ashima leaves him for hiding his true career from her this entire time. In subverting common notions of masculinity in relation to sperm donation, Vicky Donor is able to envision a modern coming-of-age love story.
The film's well-etched secondary characters, especially Vicky's rewardingly progressive grandmother, allow Vicky Donor to develop in multiple directions, creating a picture of reality. In fact, its strength lies in the beauty of unconditional love and respect between Vicky and Ashima's families while being unapologetically Punjabi and Bengali. Having said that, the film's depiction of cultural stereotypes is refreshingly real, generating humour as opposed to making it cringe-worthy.
The film also involves elements of adoption which not only acts an excellent counter narrative to the whole conflict but also beautifully reduces the social stigma around child-bearing, even if it only touches the surface of a much larger issue.
I'll just say that sometimes, all it takes is one good movie to change filmmaking for good. And while many of the last decade's films have delivered inspiring and daring stories, only some - rather, only a few films - have genuinely influenced how future films were made, and Sircar's Vicky Donor is one which has truly paved the way for the right balance between commercial and experimental filmmaking in the last decade.
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