In the Netflix show The Good Doctor, an autistic surgeon – Dr Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) – is hired at a San Francisco hospital. He’s brilliant at medical diagnoses, unravelling the most complex mysteries of the human body, but has a non-existent emotional range. A couple of seasons in, he finds his roommate blaming herself for the death of their fish. Shaun races out of the room, fish bowl in hand. The next time we see him, he’s done a post-mortem of the fish to console his roommate that she hadn’t, in fact, caused its death. In Doctor, director Nelson Dilipkumar imbues his lead – Sivakarthikeyan as Varun – with similar qualities. No, he’s not autistic. But yes, he’s emotionally deficient. We see a serious and bespectacled Sivakarthikeyan – sometimes exaggeratedly so – not cracking a smile for the whole duration of the film. In an early instance, Priyanka Arul Mohan as Padmini, Varun’s fiancée calls off their wedding. Padmini accuses him of being emotionally indifferent. Because, she says Varun – as the eponymous doctor – wrote her a prescription for her complaints when all she needed were a lover’s attentions. It’s a funny sequence – especially when you begin to wonder if this is all a deliberate caricature of real life. A man not just incapable of expressing himself, but unwilling to. A mother who thinks her son is a prize catch because of his profession. A fiancée who challenges this conceit with a hilarious analogy.
Until, Nelson decides to tell us Varun is misunderstood and is sensitive after all.
Let me say this: without the funnies, Doctor and its premise would just be another tale of a hero saving little girls from abject gloom and desolation. In this case, human trafficking. Soon after Varun is rejected by Padmini, her niece is kidnapped. Even as the others grapple with the situation, Varun hatches a plan – and it happens to be a radical one.
Sivakarthikeyan is something of an outlier in Doctor, which is otherwise filled with characters written to entertain and laugh with. Any writing – especially comedy – involves significant effort, and it would be fascinating to watch a screen-writer construct a piece that’s meant to evoke not a chuckle or two, but large-scale laughter. It must be truly exhausting – and exhilarating – to write popular comedy. Imagine having to please ninety percent of the audience in the theatre. Imagine having to find the right theme, the right characters, the right lines, the right momentum, and the right mood to make way for a comical sequence. Nelson Dilipkumar bestows lines on his actors with care. To Yogi Babu – who works the front-end of a kidnapping ring – he doles out sarcasm, and biting singles that promise instant reaction.
Of Redin Kingsley, he fashions a cop, Bhagat, who longs to do some actual cop work – side-lined and overlooked for a long time – he turns funny-for-the-ears acidic. Nelson creates an embittered man who voices the most basal desires, someone with no social filter. Even seemingly insignificant characters in Doctor aren’t without a humorous line or two. Take Mahali (Sunil Reddy) for instance. He’s a petty criminal who takes a fondness for a woman whose daughter has been kidnapped but is masquerading as a criminal herself. He expresses his desire at the most inopportune moments – and with the corniest dialogues that they are a source of instant amusement. Make no mistake, even narrating the context, or reliving the lines later would seem bizarre for the comedy here lies in meticulous construction of frames leading to each delivery. Nelson excels at this metered infusion of comedy at right intervals, lacking which, Doctor would have made us yawn or cringe or both.
The positioning of songs too, is well thought-out. Except for a stray number as things are seeming earnest, Varun and his fiancée launch into a dance only towards the end of the film. And, what a delight it is to watch Sivakarthikeyan dance. It’s a perfunctory romantic number, scenery, costumery et al., in place – but the star of the song is obviously Sivakarthikeyan. For a few seconds, he dances solo, and it’s all heart.
This Doctor review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.