Anandi Gopal, Biopic of India’s First Woman To Study Medicine In The US, To Release On February 15
- IWB Post
- February 11, 2019
In an era where women were confined to the boundaries of their household, Dr. Anandi Joshi became the first Indian woman to have studied medicine in the United States, graduating from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1886.
What made Anandi’s journey unconventional was that it was her husband Gopalrao who made sure that she continued her schooling even after marriage, as he was a strong advocate of women’s education. Anandi was only nine when she got married to Gopalrao, 20 years older to her, and it was later found out in the letters written by her from the US that she was continually beaten and reprimanded by him in order to take her education seriously.
A few years later, Anandi lost her baby shortly after he was born and witnessing the shortage of female doctors during pregnancy, she wished to address the problem of women finding it difficult to get themselves examined by a male physician in our country. However, her dream of practicing medicine could not be fulfilled as tuberculosis claimed her life at the age of 21, just after she returned to India.
To bring forward the story of this ambitious woman and the difficulties faced by her, director Sameer Vidwans is all set to release Anandi Gopal, a biopic of late Dr. Anandi Joshi on February 15 on Zee Studios. A Marathi-language biopic, Anandi Gopal stars Bhagyashree Milind as Anandi Gopal and Lalit Prabhakar as Gopalrao Joshi.
In conversation with Scroll, Vidwans shared, “In this film, I have tried to bring out what was happening around them [the couple] in that era. People know their external struggles, but not their internal ones. It’s a story people should know about, not just in Maharashtra but the whole country.”
For Vidwans, the idea of bringing Anandi’s life to forefront came out of the thought that women in India continue to struggle for equal representation in public and private spaces. “I asked myself this question too – why should I see this story today? There were two or three things that jumped out. For one, even today, whether Sabarimala or Shani Shingapur [both temples were only recently opened to female devotees, but women still face difficulties entering], women are still being discriminated against. But 140 years ago, one couple, at a time when women were not even allowed to be educated, decided that this woman should study. So I felt that this story must be told,” he said.
Vidwans collaborated with Irawati Karnik, the noted Marathi, Hindi, and English playwright and recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar to bring this biopic in form. Vidwans said, “Not much is known about Anandi’s internal world, so to create that, I wanted a woman involved in the project. I thought of Ira then, whose work I had seen and who also has a very good sense of dialogue and is very perceptive. So the three of us together worked on the Marathi adaptation and she wrote the dialogue.”
It was a challenging task for Irawati to work on the portrayal of Anandi and her husband due to the complexity of their relationship. Sharing details about it, she said, “What is interesting about this story is that even though it was she who studied and became the doctor and put in the hard work, the driving force behind most of it is Gopal. He was the one who was making conscious decisions. He had opinions on why women should be educated, on why the Brahminical system was problematic or how religion was overpowering rationality.”
“What I had to work on was trying to figure out what her journey was – the choices she herself made, to identify moments when she took a chance, disagreed with him or made things go a certain way,” she said. “We realised was that while Gopal was headstrong from the word go, she was someone who emerged, who moved from her personal troubles to thinking for society, for women in general and to larger ideas,” she said.
The filming of the biopic took place in Maharashtra as Vidwans wanted to use real locations such as heritage areas and homes to give a depth to the film and talking about it, he said, “We looked for houses that were at least a hundred years old. The texture of such houses cannot be recreated on set, and Marathi films don’t usually have the kind of budget to make a set of that level. If there were any modern fixtures in the house, we tried to hide them while, or then clean them up in the visual effects.”
Presenting the official trailer of Anandi Gopal, releasing on 15th February 2019.