Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Dr TC Anand Kumar : the man who relinquished glory to India’s first test tube baby maker Dr Subhash Mukherjee



 Image result for tc anand kumar

It is now well known that late Dr. Subhash Mukherjee from Calcutta was India’s first test-tube baby maker. This article aims to clarify some points and show the magnificent munificence and righteousness of another great reproductive biologist Dr. T.C.Anand Kumar who reinstated Dr. Mukherjee with full glory.

 Dr. Mukherjee did make India’s first test tube baby Durga Agarwal in 1978.He was actually the second person in the whole world to make a test tube baby. He was a little late , actually by few months after Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe’s first test tube baby in the world. This signifies Dr Subhas Mukherjee’s scientific efforts and novelty of the process. However he was not credited for what he achieved for a long time. Vilified by doctors in Kolkata he committed suicide. It was Dr TC Anand Kumar, a famous reproductive biologist who made India’s first documented test tube baby in Bombay in 1986, found out Dr Mukherjee’s work while attending science congress in Kolkata. Dr Anand Kumar later declared that it was not him, but Dr Subhas Mukherjee who should be credited for India’s first test tube baby (1). There are ample evidences of Dr. Mukherjee’s published work which Dr.T.C.Anand Kumar appended in the end of his article in Current Science (1). Moreover Dr. Anand Kumar discussed Dr. Mukherjee’s techniques in details and how it differed from Dr. Robert Edward and Steptoe’s work (2).

It was in a 6 page long historical note in the leading Indian science journal “Current Science” published in 1997, Dr.T.C.Anand Kumar relinquished glory to Subhash Mukherjee (1). Dr.Anand Kumar was the director of Institute for Research in Reproduction in Bombay [now known as National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health (NIRRH)] when birth of Harsha, supposedly India’s first test-tube baby was declared in 1986. He was also a reproductive biologist par excellence. He mentions that he was unaware of Mukherjee’s achievements and clarified beyond doubt in that landmark article that it was Mukherjee, not him, who was responsible for producing India’s first test tube baby Durga Agarwal in 1978 in Calcutta (1). Rarely do we come across such liberal and honest-to-the-core soul in a highly competitive world who can give away his laurels to the deserving one. By relinquishing his glory Dr TC Anand Kumar displayed his nobility.

Secondly it is also not true that the ICMR and Indian medical fraternity have not corrected this historical error of omission of Mukherjee’s achievements. The website of the Dr. Subhas Mukherjee Memorial Reproductive Biology Research Centre in Kolkata declares that in 2002 ” The Indian Council of Medical Research acknowledge the contributions of Subhas Mukherjee with regard to the work on IVF and recorded it in their document “National Guidelines for Accreditation, Supervision and Regulations of ART Clinics in India”.”(3).


It is pertinent to note that Indian scientists were always at par with their Western counterparts in the field of IVF. Prof. Robert Edwards, 2010 Nobel laureate for medicine in the field of IVF went to the same place, Edinburgh to study reproductive physiology as did Dr.Mukherjee. Prof Edwards depended on natural menstrual cycle to collect ovum whereas Dr.Mukherjee used the hormone gonadotrophin to stimulate ovum production. Freezing of embryo in liquid nitrogen and implantation of fertilized ovum in next cycle was another innovation from Mukherjee’s side (2). It should not be forgotten that IVF is still the only method to make embryonic stem cell. Stem cells are rage these days due to the infinite hope raised by their therapeutic value in treating neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases, burns, fatal anemia, blindness etc. Though embryonic stem cell research is embroiled in moral and ethical issues and fulcrum is now bent towards pluripotent stem cell, still ease of IVF procedure and procurement of embryonic stem cells make IVF a mainstay for stem cell research. IVF is also the main way to clone animals. Dolly, the cloned sheep that grabbed popular attention in 1997 would not have been made without IVF. It appears IVF has far-reaching impact and without the pioneering work of Edwards, Steptoe, Mukherjee etc IVF would not have come this far.



Dr.T.C.Anand Kumar passed away in January, 2010 (4). It is surprising that Bengal, otherwise known for its progressive and liberal attitude, vilified Mukherjee and cornered him to commit a suicide. Loosely based on his life Ramapada Chowdhury, a Bengali writer wrote a novel “Avimanyu”. Mr.Chowdhury likened Dr.Mukherjee’s life as claustrophobic as Avimanyu, the Mahabharata character suffered. Tapan Sinha’s “Ek doctor ki maut” was in turn based on this novel. I remember one newspaper report of 2006 published in Anandabazar Patrika wherein it was written that Dr.Mukherjee’s wife was impoverished and uncared for even though his students were minting money from this IVF business in Kolkata that this man spawned. Such is life. Restitution of Subhash Mukherjee’s glory actually came from a quarter least expected. It was not from Bengal intelligentsia but from Dr.T.C.Anand Kumar of Mumbai. And that makes Dr.T.C.Anand Kumar so special to the Bengalis of Kolkata!



References:

1. T.C.Anand Kumar (1997).Architect of India’s first test-tube baby:Dr.Subhash Mukherjee(16 January 1931 to 19 July 1981).Current Science, vol 72,no.7,pg 526-531

2. T.C.Anand Kumar (2004). In vitro fertilization in India. Current Science, vol 86, no.2, pg 254-256


4. Rajvi H. Mehta. (2010) Dr T.C. Anand Kumar - a doyen in reproductive biology. Indian J Med Res 131, March 2010, pg 466-467

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Bisorjon Movie Review

I admit I am quite late in watching this immediate classic Kaushik Ganguly made in 2017. I am forever thankful to my friend Madhurima Ghosh Chaudhury for suggesting this movie last year. In recent past  I was never this excited to anticipate a sequel.

By now everybody knows the story. I would rather write on subjects I liked in this movie. Padma(Jaya Ahsan) has proven her subtle gestures speak more than her words. Her vacant wistful gaze enrobed in white saree spoke highly about her desolation in widowhood. The regular shocks she exhibits while meeting her dogged suitor Ganesh(Kaushik Ganguly) portrays her dislike in the way Ganesh is tightening slowly his stranglehold over her. Kaushik Ganguly's character sometimes appear comic, sometime you almost buy his sob story but he portrays so deftly the cunning and impish nature hiding behind his obese frame wearing white always. In fact his moments of villainy make you cringe and hate his character. The greed, the cat and mouse game between him and Padma, the hapless widow was so palpable. I must say I am damn impressed by his acting skills.


Though many expected Naser Ali(Abir Chatterjee) to be in a tumultuous affair with Padma, he showed a rare restraint as expected from a smuggler hiding in another country and longing to come back to his beloved Ayesha. The emotions between him and Padma ranged from gratitude to his saviour to dependence to love and surrender at last. He wanted to go back to his love Ayesha, but he is stranded and guilt ridden. At the same time the bond of trust between the savior and the saved is all powerful in this narrative of unusual cross border love that breaches the barrier of religion also. Naser a.k.a Subhash maintained his restrain almost till the last night when Padma let her hair loose, started drinking and smoking to relive her memories of her departed husband. The consummation of their love by making love in the end expressed Jaya's repressed yearning for a love she has been denied throughout her life by a drunkard husband. That very moment between Naser and Padma melts down all the barriers of borders and religion. The receding frame of Naser on the river as he has been smuggled out by Padma with the complete surrender to the satisfaction of her suitor Ganesh marks both the beginning and ending of relations. The name Bisorjon matches so well with the ending where the woman enters into a new beginning after giving away the love which might have been a possibility but not reality.

The movie has been mostly shot indoors but the human drama keeps you on the edge. The screenplay was taut and some dialogs I shall remember. For example when Naser urges Padma not to change she replies " Padma ei chora pore geche, apnara to jol charen na" referring to water politics India plays with Bangladesh. Then she advises while consummating their love by " Bisorjon er por r fire takio na" to urge him to begin a new life forgetting this chapter.

This movie was swan song of Kalika Prosad whose song " Bondhu tor laiga re" brought tears. I found this movie absorbing and of high standard similar to European,Iranian or Latin American films. Most of Bollywood misses the subtle emotions in man-woman relationships. In Bengali, Rituporno Ghosh was a master of this genre. Many films by Kieslowski, Polanski, Innaritu, Mokhmalbaf, Sofia Coppola,Hiam Abbas etc show this kind of sensitivity. It is surprising Bisorjon has not garnered too many international awards.

In a depressing rainy day this movie did not lift my spirits but the pain, the tenderness lingers on....the story is unforgettable....the director knows how to make you cry......not without a reason a sequel named Bijoya was made and I now move to watching Bijoya.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Gully Boy, Deewar and City of God

Rags to Riches story, story of an underdog getting success despite all odds still warms our heart and Gully Boy wins our heart and hence,box office.  Ranveer Singh's acting, Zoya Akhter's flawless direction and Alia Bhat's spunk made this so watchable. Story of an underdog becoming successful never fails, almost never.

After ZNMD this is Zoya Akhter's best. As the camera moves in slums of Dharavi, that we urban middle class ignore because they are poor and we are richer, the city of Mumbai slowly becomes a character in this film. Typical Mumbai lingo, reference of Bollywood are evident. Is it mere coincidence that an actor named Vijay Verma ( Moeen, the mechanic) actually spoke " Ja jake usko pucch jinhone inko kachre ke dibbe ke pheka tha" ? Traces of Deewar (1975) crops up where Amitabh's screen name was Vijay Verma and he spoke " Ja jake uska sign leke aa jinhone mere hat pe likha ta Mera Baap Chor Hai". What an uncanny similarity with Deewar and a tribute to Zoya's father Javed Akhtar who wrote Deewar.  Javed Akhtar's poetry interspersed in the film still rocks.



Slum based movie in Bollywood is nothing new. We have earlier seen Salam Bombay, Dharavi etc. Slumdog Millionaire from Hollywood was also on Dharavi. However in most of the earlier movies o portrayal of underworld, crime, poverty, inequality reigned supreme. Gully Boy rather discloses an entirely new face of Dharavi, the hitherto unknown underground Rap and Hip Hop music genre. Like me many would have found  a new side of Mumbai. Never heard of Divine and Naezy before Zoya Akhter brought them to light.

I liked Alia's spunk immensely. I have had students like her in Mumbai and I could see how realistically she portrayed a young educated Muslim girl's character who wants to come out of the shackles of tradition. That scene where she wears a lipstick sitting in a suburban Mumbai station displayed her rebel. Ranveer successfully deconstructed himself  from a typical Hero's image and his " Apna Time Ayega" rap will be remembered for a long time for optimism and angst spelled out in simplest of Mumbai lingo. Soon this song is going to be DJ night or party Anthem of India. The scene where he confronts his abusive father displaying 4 lakh likes in Youtube and says " Mera aukat hai" is the defining moment of unbridled optimism.


This movie is a celebration of Mumbai and its unstoppable throbbing spirit which rises against all odds and gives you hope. 

This movie also reminded me of City of God based on Ri De Janeiro's slum and a slum boy becoming successful photographer.
 


Monday, 28 January 2019

Alfonso Cuaron's Roma and housemaids in movies

Now that Alfonso Cuaron's Roma bagged so many Golden Globes and nominated for multiple segments of Oscars, I add  examples of some Indian movies  hereby and I shall give an anecdotal evidence of how maids in this subcontinent matter more than family members sometimes. Roma by Cuaron documents his growing up days in Mexico city and their family maid Roma.



Khokababur Pratyabartan is a famous novel by Tagore which was made into a movie in 1960 in Bengali by starring Uttam Kumar, the screen legend. This movie and the story shows moral pangs of a trusted servant who loses the master's child and later on returns his own child to the master.




Another recent Bengali movie Nayanchapar Din Ratri (2015) made by Sekhar Das is starred by Roopa Ganguly who essays the role of a maid in Kolkata. In fact the entire movie is about the life story of maids who come to work from surrounding villages of South Bengal to Kolkata. 

Hollywood has several examples which I provide below. The Maid's Room of 2014 is a thriller based on murder and disappearance of a Columbian maid in Long Island household.





Maid in Manhattan (2002) is a Romcom starring J Lo which is quite enjoyable.



Similarly I remember an anecdote after Benazir Bhutto's assassination. I read when the entire Zardari and Bhutto family were searching for her last will , the loyal old maid of Benazir came forth and declared that she has been handed over the will by Benazir and she will hand it over only to Bilawal Bhutto, Benazir's son upon his return from UK. This story indeed buttresses the view on importance of maids in Indian subcontinent where maids turn out be trusted more than the family sometimes. 

If readers can suggest any Bollywood film on maids I shall be glad because I don't recall anything other than Lust Stories starring Bhumi Pednekar where the complexity of love  and power struggle between the maid and the master is shown.
Thanks

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Bioscopewala : A review

Who told Rabindranath Tagore is no longer relevant? You have to watch the reinvented version of Kabuliwala to  realize Tagore's stories are timeless and holds sway over an audience which is more than 100 years younger than his time. The time in which the movie is set in in 1990's Calcutta where a cinephile Kabuliwala flees from war ridden Afganistan and swoons children with his mobile cinema. He befriends a small girl Minnie, daughter of a fashion photographer Rabi Basu who reminds him of her own daughter. Just like the earlier story he gets embroiled in a murder accusation and goes to Jail. While escaping the prison he comes for one last time to visit that girl but gets imprisoned again at the behest of  Rabi Basu. Upon his release finally he becomes demented and Rabi Basu now tries to fly him back to Afganistan. He dies in a plane crash and her daughter, now a film maker in France, comes back to discover Rahamat, the Afgan bioscopewala who made her childhood full of imagination and joy. I don't want to spoil the ending by disclosing the plot entirely, but the credit goes to Deb Medhekar, the director for weaving such a story of love, imagination and life as a whole. Reinventing the story in present days touching on the older strands is a task where the screenplay writers and director excel. Acting skills of Geetanjali Thapa ( Minnie) is noteworthy. Her dilemma, her reluctance, her brazen When actors of Danny's time are engaged in mindless films, Danny Denzongpa chose a meaningful film to come back. Those who are retaining Danny's image as a Bollywood villain, please see this movie to observe a new avatar.  Adil Hussain's salt n pepper look is always an winner and he did justice for the little time he spent on screen. 

I particularly liked songs written by Gulzar and some deep dialogues in this film. When Minnie encounters her father's supposedly paramour, the attractive Tisca Chopra says " Jibon amai emon kichui dei ni ja Mrityu amar kach theke kere nilo" meaning life has not given me anything that death could take away. This sentence will be etched forever in my mind.


Overall, this is a heart warming everlasting tale of universal feeling of fatherhood which Tagore portrayed. Earlier this story was made into movie twice - once in Bangla in 1957 by Tapan Sinha and another time in Hindi by Hemen Gupta in 1961. Balraj Sahani in the Hindi film and Chabi Biswas in the Bengali film made such a mark that people still remember them. Director Deb Medhekar made this movie a memorable one with Danny not deviating from the high standard of acting.

A clip of bengali film Kabuliwala


A famous song from Kabuliwala, Bollywood version



Thursday, 10 January 2019

10 favourite Rabindrasangeet in Movies

Bengalis are often asked why are they obsessed with Rabindrasangeet or Tagore Songs. Many find Tagore songs melancholic and of a typical pattern. However the lyrics he wrote speaks of every possible emotions humans experience and hence its popularity never wanes. Tagore mixed Ragas, folk tunes and English music to make something new....he was the original Fusion maker ....Shyam Benegal once told in an Interview on Film music to Outlook magazine in 2006 that Bengali film makers are lucky to have Tagore songs since it blends so nicely to buttress cinematic moments. He particularly spoke highly of Ghatak and Ray using Rabindrasangeet in cinema.

I grew up in 1980's and 90's Calcutta where some Rabindrasangeet in films made me hear again and again. I hereby make a list of 10 though it is not a comprehensive list. I tried to include the old and the new, the past and the recent. However a list like this cannot be complete.I urge my readers to add more in the comments section below.


1) Charano Dhorite Diogo Amare from Dadar Kirti

This one is my all time favorite sung by mellifluous Hemanta Mukherjee in a Tarun Majumdar film based on Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay novella. Except Piano there is no background music in this song and the ups and downs of notes by tenor of Hemanta is unbelievably heart rendering. It is still immensely popular.



2) Je Rat e Mor Duar Guli from Meghe Dhaka Tara

One of the classics of World Cinema by Ritwick Ghatak, this movie has a Rabindrasangeet which cannot be more apt to display the suffering of the female protagonist Neeta. The sounds of lashing reverberates with her pain. Ray being my personal favorite, grudgingly I accept that Ghatak was much better in choosing Rabindrasangeet used in his films.




3) Tumi Rab e Nirobe in Kuheli

This is another of my favorites where  sugar sweet voice of Lata Mangeshkar pitches in after a long passage by Hemanta Mukherjee....the handsome Biswajeet plays a piano and Sandhya Roy joins him....a song to celebrate togetherness and romance



4) Momo Chitte Niti Nritye ( Instrumental) in Charulata

The beginning of Charulata has an instrumental version of Momo Chitte composed by Ray and being an exiled Calcuttan I always yearn for home the moment I hear this lovely tune. Nothing essays the lonely housewife more than this music.




5) Aji Jharer Rat e Tomar Abhisar in The Last Lear

Rashid Khan singing this in a classical style was a scoop by Rituparno Ghosh in the end of this film when the title card begins to roll. It was a treat for me despite many criticized the style of singing Rabindrasangeet not fitting into the usual method.



6) Amar Bichar tumi Karo in Bicharak


One of the best examples of music in cinema where the dilemma and moral pangs  of a judge is submitted to the hands of the Lord for  final justice and deliverance. Brilliantly sung by Hemanta Mukherjee starring Uttam Kumar.

7) Sajani Sajani Radhika lo in Chokher Bali

As Aiswarya Rai gets ready for a meeting with her lover , you can feel her urge for a rendezvous.I could not obtain the video from Youtube, however I recollect vividly the song in Chokher Bali.many will remember too.


8) Mayabono Biharini in Bedroom

This was an iconoclastic fusion of rock and Rabindrasangeet which delighted me...the freshness , the spunk of Somlata Acharya Chaudhuri made me fall in love with her voice.



9) Diner Seshe Ghumer Deshe in Mukti

My grandfather, a famous surgeon of his time operated on Pankaj Mallik's daughter saving her from an amputation and the legendary Pankaj Mallik sang this to him in return and hence my personal favorite. This was also a Tagore poem set into music by Pankaj Mallik and Tagore, pleasantly surprised , allowed him to use it for a Pramathesh Barua film, Mukti.



10) Majhe Majhe Tobo Dekha pai in Island

This is sung by Ritu Guha in Island, a Paul Cox film. Paul Cox was an Australian who used this song in his film. However there is no Youtube video. I recall seeing this in Calcutta in 1996 and it beaitfully captures the wait of a lady in love with a man who is coming home in a ship. The lyrics weaved into the cinematic moment of pangs of loneliness of a lover. I add a link below for my readers to read about Paul Cox and Ritu Guha.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/Film-Journalists-Association-pays-tribute-to-Paul-Cox/articleshow/53005765.cms

Making Film music is not an easy job. Sergei Eisenstein recruited the famous classical musician Prokofiev to put music in his films. Film has moments when music speak the language of cinema and Rabindrasangeet fits in nicely to portray the cinematic moments and evokes the emotions of the viewers in sync with the characters. I am aware this list did not include many songs and list like this can never be complete. I tried my best to cull my favorite ones, I know my readers can add many more which can be interesting additions to this blog. I welcome you all to add your favorite one with your feelings written along with it. Please write in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you.

Thank you. 

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

The Light Between Oceans : A review

I watched a movie in Sony Le Plex channel recently quite late at night in a Mahabaleswar hotel room. I was sleepy but as I started watching the story caught my attention and kept me awake yearning to see what happens in the end.The movie grabs your attention.

The movie begins with a World War veteran Tom Sherbourne ( Michael Fassbender) taking up a Lighthouse guard job in order to find some solitude; however he falls in love with a local girl, Isabel ( Alicia Vikander)and marries her. But two miscarriage by the wife shatter their hope of having another. The woman's depression was so palpable and the man's effort to mollify her was encouraging. The empty cot, The ruffling ocean, whistling winds, two crosses reminding the miscarriages, woman's sigh... everything put the tone of the movie into deep melancholy. However arrival of a boat with a dead man and an infant girl changed everything. Isabel sprang into life taking care of the baby. The empty cot which they prepared with great hope earlier got filled. The transformation of Isabel from a melancholic lost soul to an exuberant mother was so vividly noticeable. The call of duty dictated Tom that he informs the authorities about this sudden arrival of an infant but faded into oblivion as a frantic Isabel persuaded her husband not to steal her new found bundle of joy. The husband obliges but here begins the moral dilemma which is going to cause enormous turbulence later on. 

I don't want the full story to be disclosed but the ensuing human drama that begins after Tom finds out and contacts the infant's mother out of sheer moral compulsion. Tom lands up in jail but not a single moment he accuses Isabel. She never betrays her trust either. In the end the baby girl reunites with her biological mother and family and we see Isabel dying aged and infirm tormented with life long guilt. This movie is going to rivet you to the screen and while engrossed you will find it is a simple story of human need of love, parenthood or pangs due to lack of it. The stoic acting of Micheal Fassbender blows your mind and the melodramatic Alicia Vikander tug your heart strings.

Please watch till the end. After a long time I was engrossed by simple tale of human emotions. I expected the movie to be a dark one, instead it turned out to be a heart tugging riveting watch. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover it is based on a novel written by M.L. Stedman whom I have never heard of. Now I will be finding and reading her books.