Ayushmann Kurrana is back and plays the role of a sheepish gynecologist in the making with a bang. Known for his mastery of ‘taboo topics’, the 38-year-old actor has been generating a lot of buzz since the trailer for his upcoming film ‘Doctor G’ came out last month.
Packed with meaty dialogue and situational comedic scenes, the trailer will keep you hooked and promising to be a laughing stock. Khurana doesn’t disappoint, but how much of ‘Doctor G’ introduces us to the realities of the profession from a man’s point of view and how far he exercises artistic freedom to exaggerate still remains a mystery.
In a quest to decipher what it takes to be a male gynecologist in India, we spoke to some experts in the field and here’s what they had to say.
A patient chooses the doctor, not the gender!
“I’ve been inundated with DMs from people who sent me the ‘Doctor G’ trailer! They say it’s like my story,” says Dr. Ankesh R Sahetya playfully against News18. But is it really so?
dr. Ankesh, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the Brillianz Fertility Center in Mumbai, has watched his father rise to the rank of a renowned gynecologist and has had a heartfelt desire to follow in his footsteps ever since. Now, after 13 years, he is not only a celebrated gynecologist, but also has a loyal clientele.
“I have been very blessed with the professors in my college days and with my patients now. Never have I been subject to gender bias or have a patient question my abilities because of my gender. It is my true belief that a sensible patient chooses the doctor, not the gender,” he says.
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When asked about his contributions to the upcoming film, which documents the trials and triumphs of a male gynecologist, Dr. Ankesh believes that the film was made for entertainment purposes and therefore it may contain elements of fiction to add some ‘masala’. in the story.
“I saw in the trailer that Ayushmann’s character is being attacked by a patient’s family. Well, I’m not sure if it works that way in the real world, especially for male gynecologists who practice in cities and urban areas. What is the scenario in tier two or three cities is something I cannot comment on. However, Ayushmann’s films always have a poignant social message, so I support the film,” he adds.
‘Not for the faint of heart’
dr. Surakshith Battina, MD, fertility doctor and founder of Indigo Women’s Center in Chennai, says being a male gynecologist is not for the faint of heart and especially cumbersome for those whose fathers or forefathers were not experts in the field.
“You have to go through the rut to gain your own position in the profession. I’ve had to fight my own battle, but I’ve seen a drastic change in people’s mentality over the past 3-4 years,” said Battina.
Deliberatively, he says the advent of social media platforms has made it easier for doctors like him to release videos and explanations to the masses and thereby capture the attention of potential patients. “This way people can get an idea of my nature and behavior and make an informative choice regardless of my gender,” he explains.
When asked about the buzz around Dr G, he says with a laugh: “I remember being asked during my college days to run around for menial jobs, including getting tea for my classmates, because I was the only man in my ward who studied gynecology. I hope the film also shows the fate of male students in a female-dominated department.”
‘Male Touch’ – what is that?
The Doctor G trailer, among others, has also sparked a conversation about ‘male touch’. The 2-minute video shows Ayushmann being reprimanded by a supposed senior doctor and professor, played by Shefali Shah, who asks him to lose his “masculine touch” to treat his female patients. Ayushmann looks perplexed at the particular scene, a similar response we got when we asked some male students from Kolkata’s renowned medical colleges for their interpretation of the phrase.
“I don’t remember ever being educated by our professors about what our ‘touch’ should be like. We are taught that our only duty is the health of our patients,” said a 21-year-old male student specializing in gynecology at KPC Medical College in Kolkata.
However, 23-year-old Soham, another gynecology student, believed that the masculine touch referenced in the trailer could be about being gentle, caring and empathetic to a patient. “It can be interpreted more like a doctor’s touch assuring the patient that they are in safe hands,” he opined.
Does gender preference in obstetrics still exist?
A study conducted in 2021 by the National Library of Medicine concluded that there is a female gender preference among visitors to obstetrics and gynecology clinics. This is significant in people who are married and those without formal education. Overall, a significant proportion of women feel more comfortable with female doctors and find it easier to discuss their medical issues and build rapport.
However, when we asked about their preference for urban-bred women who had received formal training, many voted for a female gynaecologist.
“I believe who a woman goes to for a checkup is a personal choice. I have friends who have been treated by male gynecologists for many years, but I have yet to accept that idea,” said 28-year-old IT professional Sudha Sarkar, from Kochi.
“I recently visited a male gynaecologist on the recommendation of a relative. Although everything seemed fine, I felt a certain discomfort when I opened up to him with my problems, which turned out to be detrimental to both,” says 32-year-old dancer Mrinalini.
Cinema for change
In a recent media interview, Ayushmann Khurrana was quoted as saying that he believes in cinema for change and therefore chooses scripts that are progressive. “I know the popular palette is somewhat regressive, but I can’t change the way I think like that. So this is my USP, I will make films that are progressive… I believe in cinema for change and it should be theatrical. Sure, it (Doctor G) will eventually come out on OTT, but it should hit theaters first so it reaches more people. So that’s my only effort.”
The actor’s penchant for social comedies has brought him great success in the theaters. But the question remains whether Doctor G will suffer a similar fate and bring about a social change as intended by the creators, or will it depict the life of a male gynecologist far away from reality? The verdict will not be announced until October 14.