Cinema & Bollywood · History India South Asia · History of Medicine · Medicine & Doctors · Public health

How B&W Bollywood has preserved a multi-hued snapshot of India’s public health story

This was published on 28 Sep by the Wire India, here. Below are some excerpts:

“TB was, and is, a formidable enemy but the foremost public health enemy in the early and mid-1900s in India, accounting for almost a quarter of all deaths every year, was malaria. Observers used terrible superlatives to describe it, such as India’s ‘most fatal’ and ‘most devastating’ disease. The British Indian government was under immense pressure to reduce malaria incidence and mortality, and like all governments it went for the easiest as well as most lucrative solution: pharmaceuticals (instead of stopping the environmental damage that created breeding grounds for mosquitoes). A dedicated production and distribution policy ensured quinine, the anti-malaria drug, was supplied to the remotest corners of India… In the timeless classic Achhut Kanya (1936), the heroine’s father owns a small shop where he also distributes quinine provided by the government. We see many villagers purchase the drug for a relative down with fever. In the film, the supply of quinine infuriates the local Ayurvedic physician, who is losing business. This antagonism between the practitioners of supposedly Western and non-Western/alternative medical systems awaits resolution even to this day.”

“Dushman”, 1939, Times of India, Courtesy ProQuest

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s