Vicky Donor: A Pleasant Surprise

vickydonorBollywood’s formula has always been to take run-of-the-mill themes and melodramatize the heck out of them – the lovers from different social classes, the son taking revenge on his father’s killer, the love triangle. So when a movie does the exact opposite, taking an outlandish theme and treating it as a normal, everyday phenomenon, it comes as a welcome surprise.

Vicky Donor has an absurd, far-fetched premise; whoever heard of someone making a living off of sperm donation? But Vicky Arora  (Anshumann Khurrana) does, and his story is told with panache and sensitivity. The film could have easily veered into caricature and sexploitation any number of times, but director Shoojit Sircar handles the tough subject with incredible deftness, never once making the audience uncomfortable, even though the word “sperm” is as plentiful in the dialogues as Vicky’s “contributions”. The laughs come from the authentic North Indian dialogues and the situations, not from embarassment. Best of all, everyone in the film seems like an average grounded person, not a star emoting for the camera. In fact, Vicky Donor almost feels like a documentary on the virtues of sperm donation, though one that is genuinely funny and heart-warming.

Sircar achieves this feat by casting relative unknowns who, nevertheless, are completely comfortable with their unusual roles. Khurrana, who debuts in Bollywood with this movie, is a TV host with an engaging boy-next-door appeal. His comic timing is impeccable and his “Lajpat Nagar”  mannerisms are pitch perfect in Vicky Donor. Yaami Gautam, who plays Ashima, Vicky’s Bengali love interest, also comes from TV. Both the leads are restrained, letting the supporting actors chew up the scenery.

Among those is Annu Kapoor as Dr. Chaddha, the infertility specialist who nags Vicky into his occupation. Kapoor seems to be playing a version of himself, so this is an easy role for him. My favorites in the movie were Vicky’s mom Dolly, played by the excellent Dolly Ahluwalia, and Biji, Vicky’s grandmother, played by theater actress Kamlesh Gill. The interactions between the two are the highlight of the movie. The two characters are wonderfully drawn and elicit the most laughs and sympathy; they seem so real that it feels like they were inspired by family members of the script writer.

And that brings us to the real hero of the film – the script written by Juhi Chaturvedi. This is her first script for Hindi movies and I wish there was a way to keep track of her future work because this script is just brilliant. Even though the dialogues may be a bit of a slog for folks not familiar with the Punjabi-heavy Hindi of the north, they are just very, very clever and funny.

The songs (all of which play in the background) are excellent too, and make me want to look them up online. The new Bollywood trend of letting the songs serve as a backdrop to the movie rather than have the actors lip-synch to them is such a relief; for one, it brings a much needed dose of realism to the proceedings. Second, it allows for a variety of singing talents,  not just the conventional hero-heroine voices that dominated most of Bollywood’s history.

I did have a couple of quibbles. First is, of course, the elephant in the room, the premise that someone can actually make money off of getting off. The second is how cavalierly adoption is dismissed as a viable option for infertile couples. Are Indian couples more comfortable with artificial insemination through sperm donation rather than adoption? Aren’t there  many deserving babies already born and waiting for love and attention?

Perhaps there is another movie in that. Vicky Donor, for its part, skates over the issue with a token dialogue or two, but it makes up with wit and charm in the subject it does tackle.

Kudos to actor John Abraham for financing this little gem. Now that the low budget indie comedy genre is finally taking off in India, it may be time to shed the “Bollywood” tag or reserve it for the execrable, derivative big-budget crap that seems to have its own audience. Movies like Vicky Donor, Dhobi Ghat, and even Delhi Belly deserve to be called just Hindi movies or Indian movies.

Can Vicky Donor be seen on DVD? Yes. But it is worth forking over some of your hard-earned cash to check it out in your local multiplex. It may not have special effects or the Bollywood oomph that make for a theater spectacle, but it is a sweet, funny movie that would be great for a couple’s night out.

Kid Advisory: For obvious reasons, DO NOT take your kids to the  movie unless you are aiming for an early birds and bees lesson. There are also a couple of sensitively shot love scenes ( the kissing is getting better and better in Bollywood as actors get over their inhibitions) and the subject matter is much too adult. Older teenagers might enjoy the movie, but not with their parents.:)

5 thoughts on “Vicky Donor: A Pleasant Surprise

  1. suresh

    Good review Vidya. I saw the film in USA .Enjoyed the movie.You mentioned about music but failed to mention the song Paani da rang sung so well by Ayushmann and Sukanya.Sukanya reminds of Kavita Seth or Rekha Bhardawaj.

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  2. manish gusain

    The review was excellent and the movie was awesome it seems to be a great subject in the indian cinema with sperm donor . there are lots of couple who has this type of problem and they are not with their life so i think sperm donor is great way for them to be happy…….

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  3. Shreya Datta

    Hi,

    Couldn’t resist commenting since this is an issue that has personally affected me( somewhat at least).

    Years ago, as a very eligible professionally qualified young woman, I had an arranged marriage with someone neither interested in women nor capable of fatherhood, won’t go into the details of the condition as it would take up too much space.

    Forget sperm donation, even adoption was not supposed to be an option for me, I had to pretend to be career obsessed and uninterested in having children.

    Obviously my family and me were outraged and we managed to get the marriage annuled and got a suitable compensation for fraud( again it took time to prove as professionally qualified women are in general not entitled to alimony.

    I hated the stigma of a failed marriage and would have stayed if they had offered the alternative of donor sperm.

    I am now looking for a suitable remarriage and honestly speaking adoption isn’t an option for me.

    Does that make me selfish and evil? I would certainly not say so.

    Obviously there are millions of women and men like me, which is why there’s an entire industry around fertility treatments, donor sperm and eggs.

    Firstly, the desire to procreate is a primeval biological urge also, just like the urge to nurture a young child. Adoption fulfills the second urge, but many also want the first urge fulfilled, and its nothing to be ashamed of.

    Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to donate 99% of his wealth to charity. This is undoubtedly a great altruistic act. Yet as he publicly admitted, his wife Priscilla had three miscarriages before their daughter. Obviously, while they were noble enough to give away 99% of their wealth, they were also human enough to want the urge of successful procreation satisfied.

    Indeed not just humans, even females of the animal species have this overwhelming urge. When pet bitches and tabby cats don’t get a mate and can’t experience pregnancy, they often experience false pregnancy symptoms and even false delivery. ( look it up if you want to).
    Nor is this urge “cultural” like the obsessive son preference in countries like India and China (which ironically causes many unwanted girl children to be abandoned in orphanages, waiting for homes and love, but digressing here).
    The desire to have a biological child exists all over the world, which is why an entire multi billion dollar fertility industry exists around the world.
    Also, when we’re dealing with “infertile couples” the real elephant in the room is that seldom is a “couple” infertile, its more often than not one of the couple ie either the man or the woman.
    I shall speak just for the woman here as I am not a man and don’t think I wpuld be able to reason out his feelings and views in the same way.
    Today we recognize women’s rights, her right to live a wholesome fulfilling life.
    If a man dies, we don’t condemn his widow to a life of forced austerity and white clothes, or ask her to commit Sati with him.
    If a man is blind like Dhritarashtra today, his wife isn’t expected to blindfold her eyes like Gandhari.
    So why should the wife of an infertile man be deprived of this primeval biological urge to procreate when she is able and willing?

    Having “children”, biological or adopted is not meant to be a “noble” act, its a fundamentally selfish act- yes even when one adopts an orphan waiting for a home and love, one fulfills the urge to nurture.

    So why is it a crime if one feels one can fulfill one’s needs through a biological child only?

    As women anywhere in the world, one tends to prepare for biological motherhood right from at least puberty. I remember some maybe sound advise and some old wives tales about not exercising on the first days of my periods as that can impact my organs adversely, not take unnecessary painkillers during periods( same reason!), my mom being happy that I never had cysts or PCOS unlike some of my friends, friends with PCOS exercising and watching their diet to regulate their cycles and eventually conceive, advose from well meaning friends and relatives abput getting married by a certain age so that one can ” enjoy” for a couple of years and then have at least one child before the dreaded 30!

    I now regularly see pictures and attend my schoolfriends and college friends babyshowers, with all the pretty pretty stuff, see them wearong shirts saying, ” I create life what’s your superpower?” with a Superwoman logo underneath.

    Hear their experience of seeing the baby on ultrasound, with its heartbeat, their stories of the baby move for the first time and labour and giving birth.

    I too have the “superpower” of creating life, why should I sacrifice these fundamental urges for a forced “noble” act?

    No one else is forced into “nobility” otherwise- millionaires not forced to donate x% of their wealth compulsorily to charity, why should wives of infertile men be?

    And what about the future? Will the men admit it was them with the problem, not their wives? Seldom if at all. Due to the great stigma of male infertilitybajd its association, erroneously, with impotency, women are often cajoled or forced to take the blame, called a “baanjh”.

    Unless you have also adopted, inspite of having the ability to reproduce naturally, please don’t force others to. Or judge them for choosing not to.

    After all, nothing is stopping fertile heterosexual couples from adopting and giving homes to children too!

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