Picture this. A mother watches her young son being wheeled into the operation theatre for a minor operation. The child never returns.
Medical negligence is passe. Medical arrogance is the new menace. Enter a high-end, seven-star hospital and you're bound to run into the incredibly arrogant Dr Asthana (Kay Kay Menon, back in fabulous form), who addresses the media as though he was obliging them by giving out information, and who tells his junior, "Medicine is not just about healing. It's also about making money. Who pays the bills of those who can't afford them? The rich of course."
But of course.
The pragmatism underscoring the Hippocratic Oath bypasses the young idealistic Rohan (Arjun Mathur), the intern who dares to speak out of turn to question Dr Asthana's supreme authority in the hospital.
Taking the conflict between the blase megalomaniacal medicine-man and the idealistic intern as the central point in the plot, Vikram Bhatt has written a script that is partly a conscience-pricking morality tale, and partly a racy thriller set in the spick-and-span corridors of a high-end hospital where, for the record, an eminent surgeon has just goofed up.
But shhhh! No one in his intimidated medical team is allowed to speak of his horrid faux pas.
The Ankur Arora Murder Case is one of the most gripping moral dramas of recent times. The deftly crafted script raises the question of right and wrong in the medical profession without getting peachy or hysterical. Somewhere, Dr Asthana's medical arrogance connects with each one of us who has in one way or another encountered dead ends in healthcare.
Looking at Kay Kay Menon's brilliantly underscored emphatically italicised performance, I finally understood what was meant by the Biblical proverb, "Physician, heal thyself."
Many portions of the pacy plot would seem excessively racy. The post-interval helping seems especially eager to seek out unexpected twists and turns. And that's fine. The idea of making a film on medical ethics is to ensure that audiences' participation in the proceedings never flags.
To that extent, director Suhail Tatari (who earlier directed the gripping thriller My Wife's Murder), keeps the large array of conflicted characters in a constant state of self-questioning anxiety. It's cinematically a terrific space to be in. Tatari explores that space with intelligence, sensitivity and some charm.
While not allowing us to forget that we are watching a medical thriller, Tatari also gives deepened shape to various inter-relationships in the plot. The characters are convincing and yet distant from what we generally perceive to be authentic cinema. The narration moves on two different levels: the headline-inspired pseudo-documentary and the sprawling soap opera that life often throws open in situations that we see as too unreal to be happening.
The performances in both the first half (the medical drama) and the second half (the courtroom conflict) are all supremely poised. The actors assume brilliancy without getting compromised by the need to shine.
Tisca Arora's bereaved mother's act is so real and restrained! She gives us goose bumps when, after her son's death, she gets busy on her smart phone to fob off the terrible reality of the tragedy. Really, Tisca is one of our most underrated actresses.
Kay Kay Menon rediscovers the awe-inspiring actor within himself with a performance that leaves us repelled and fascinated. Arjun Mathur as the daring intern who takes on the mighty medicine man exudes integrity without brimming over with righteous indignation.
In an era when all our filmy heroes are growing stubbles and trying to look mean, Arjun plays a true-blue old-fashioned hero (the kind who used to fight for the truth) in a very contemporary context and style.
Paoli Dam, who had played a sexually intense role in Hate Story, undergoes a personality volte face. As a lawyer battling on behalf of the powerful medical mafia, she pitches a poignant but strong performance. Some of the film's most powerful moments feature Paoli with her courtroom opponent (Manish Chaudhury, brilliant) in bed and on the brink.
The way Paoli and Tisca connect as two grieving mothers, is a masterstroke of scripting.
Indeed, this is a far cleverer, wiser and relevant film than most of what we get to see these days. At a time when Bollywood is raining bubbles and effervescence about 'jawaani deewanis' and 'yamla paglas', this sobering, disturbing medical thriller comes as an invigorating cloudburst. The film makes a scathing and rousing case against medical malpractices.
Bursting at the seams with acting talent, director Suhail Tatari's restorative drama hits us where it hurts the most. The conscience.
Rating: 4 stars