Hollywood and Bollywood – Similarities and contrasts in different film industries

Ekansh Debuka,
Mch Fellow Limb Reconstruction Surgery, Liverpool, UK
Royal Liverpool University Hospitals
(MS Orthopaedics, DNB Ortho, MRCS Edinburgh)

The potential of audio-visual inputs to leave an indelible mark on our minds is undeniable. With the advent of easily accessible super-fast internet, several streaming platforms and podcasts like Netflix, YouTube etc. and wide access to a plethora of viewing options, their impact has only
magnified. What we watch and listen to, shapes our thoughts, opinions and ideas consciously and subconsciously. Similarly, movies are widely viewed as a form of entertainment but in fact serve as much more. In the 1970’s, English professor W. J. Palmer’s from Purdue University concluded from his studies spanning over 2 decades that “people in mass society get a sense of
their history from the way its portrayed in movies”.
The “Wood” twins, Hollywood and Bollywood, are possibly two of the most influential movie industries across the globe with their reach spanning borders and continents. Their portrayal of war, history, technology, romance and adventure shapes our thoughts and opinions as they
often serve as our only way of experiencing things we have and might never be able to do in person. The durable impression they create on our impressionable minds is often quite hard to dislodge. In the same vein, their depiction of doctors, nurses and healthcare industries in general is the closest real-life experience of the medicine profession for a vast majority of the masses.
Doctors have for long been held at a high pedestal in the Indian society, synonymous with humanitarianism and empathy for their fellow beings, and Bollywood has often canvassed them as such. They’ve been shown as healers, a voice of reason, bringing a sense of calm donned in
their long white coats with a stethoscope draped around their necks. The legendary actor V Shantaram starrer “Dr Kotnis ki Amar Kahani” premiered in 1946 and amicably showed the sacrifices, challenges and bravery displayed by a doctor serving in a war. Many others like
Rajendra Kumar and Raj Kumar led “Dil Ek Mandir” from 1960’s depict the selflessness and professionalism displayed my doctors even in dire times and often at high personal cost to serve and uphold the Hippocratic oath.
Over the years, the depiction has evolved with the most familiar in recent years being Sanjay Dutt’s light hearted but heart-touching “Munna Bhai MBBS”. It highlights that it’s not only the education that makes one a doctor but one’s innate qualities that define him as one. Even the tagline from the movie translates into “don’t worry, I’m there” is a re-affirmation of the
ever-availability and reliability that anyone donning the white coat brings.

However, there are several examples of depiction of many incorrect and often egregious things in Bollywood movies like sucking blood in the case of a snakebite, extracting bullets with bare hands and miraculous recoveries with CPR, surgery and medicines. The list is endless with some farcical and comical examples as well. One ought to remember that medicine is not an
exact science like mathematics and there are often factors at play which are beyond the current purview of medical science making outcomes uncertain. Compare this to the Hollywood sitcoms and films and one will immediately notice a stark contrast ranging from the hospital setup, resources and personnel available and even the scenario depictions. For example, some of the more famous sitcoms in recent times to come
from the western world like “Scrubs”, “House MD” show a more glamorous side of medicine entwined with the same ethos of professionalism and care towards the patient. While the doctor-patient relationships often take canter-stage, they don’t hesitate to explore the challenges of balancing a personal, romantic and spiritual life amidst it. Several iconic actors
and actresses have adopted the title of a doctor through some magnificent works like Robbie Williams in “What Dreams May come” and “Patch Adams” and Whoopi Goldberg in “Girl Interrupted.”

Although often depicted in a healthy and virtuous light, several movies have shown characters who, as doctors, have indulged their dark side and displayed striking malevolence and wickedness. Such depictions which are available in mainstream media has made the masses aware that not every doctor is cut from the same stone. While one brings admirable traits to their
vocation, it can sometimes be tarnished by the vices one seeks to quell.
While this might be an over-generalization, Hollywood movies tend to show medicine in a more realistic fashion as compared to the slightly more fanciful and traditional outlook of its Bollywood counterpart. Like our gastronomic wants, Bollywood caters to the unquenchable thirst for
“masala” in its forays for the monetary returns dictate the direction. The industries respond to the golden rule of demand and supply and as such their products are often devised keeping in mind the target audience.
In essence, the sway these seemingly innocuous movies and sitcoms can have on our understanding of the world around is irrefutable. Borrowing from the hit Hollywood franchise Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility” applies to them and like responsible journalism, the movie industries while retaining their freedom to express and explore concepts and ideas, must recognize that they are accountable in shaping society. The art of medicine requires years of toil, sacrifice and dedication which is not everyone’s cup of tea and the general public can only experience it vicariously through these platforms. This has never been more relevant than during this Covid pandemic when doctors have been frontline warriors with exemplary tales of courage, bravery and personal sacrifice. Hopefully, the “Wood” brothers spurn their future productions to show the world that the doctors shall bear the torch of light through death and darkness.

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