Anokha Aspatal- The Unusual Hospital
Shammi or Shammi Aunty, as she was credited in many Doordarshan serials, is among my favourite actors. The characters she portrayed, whether good or bad, were often depicted as bubbly and talkative. It was therefore a surprise to find her in a serious role. Totally unlike anything I saw her in before, since my introduction to Shammi Aunty was through serials like “Dekh Bhai Dekh” or “Kabhi Yeh Kabhi woh“.
In Anokha Aspatal, she plays an old lady running a hospital for animals amidst a dense forest.
Anokha Aspatal (1989) was directed by Mukesh Sharma. Mukesh Sharma was associated with CFSI for over a decade, working as Production Officer in many movies. I will however always remember him as Niyog Mama of Rhino. Anokha Aspatal fetched the national award for Best Children’s Film.
And in a funny twist, he acts as a poacher in this film. Besides that, the film also stars Paintal and Ankur Zaveri.
There is a house in the midst of a dense forest. It is Ammaji’s (Shammi) daily routine to take care of various animals and birds coming to her. Ammaji treats their wounds, feeds them. When they are completely healed the animals are sent back to the jungle. This is the Anokha Aspatal of Ammaji.
Ammaji and her Hospital:
Ammaji’s motto and principle is to treat the animals in the wild. She is completely against their being sent to a zoo or captivity of any kind, if she can help it.
She lives in her house cum hospital, away from her doctor son, daughter-in-law, grandchildren. There is only Ramdhani (Paintal) to help her. Her grandson Gagan is a frequent visitor.
On one such occasion when her son and Gagan come to visit her, Ammaji shows a lamb to her son. Her son though not a veterinarian, operates on the lamb. He tells Ammaji that the lamb has been shot by an air-gun.
Ammaji is deeply disturbed to think that someone can shoot animals for sheer pleasure.
Ammaji & Villagers:
Next day her son leaves, but Gagan stays back. They are visited by a female elephant named Padmini and her son Sundar. Ammaji had earlier treated Padmini.
Another important dimension of this unique hospital is that the people of the village adjoining the forest too help Ammaji in her mission.
One day the Sarpanch of the village and Ammaji are informed by a villager that a teenager has fallen in a pit. He has an air-gun with him. Now that they have found the culprit who wounds animals, everyone is determined to teach him a lesson (meaning beat the hell out of him).
Ammaji however stops them and tells the boy, Mohan, that his actions of hurting helpless animals are wrong and it can have grave effects in future. It does not however seem to have any effect on the boy.
While on one side a dedicated Ammaji is incessantly looking after wild animals and working for their welfare, on the other side there are poachers. These poachers collect anything from live animals, to tusks, to crocodile skins, on the order of their “clients”.
On this occasion this order is for a live elephant to be taken across border.
One day Padmini comes to Ammaji. Her trunk and legs have been severely wounded. Villagers are for calling the Forest Department. But Ammaji differs. The Forest Department, according to Ammaji’s experience, will of course treat Padmini, but at the same time she will lose her freedom.
She therefore calls her son again. Her son on hearing his mothers request is justifiably angry. If she had told her the problem, he could have brought a veterinarian along, he says.
Finally however, and due to urgency of the situation, he gives in and operates on Padmini. The villagers gather with torches to help him. At a distance Mohan is watching everything.
That night Mohan comes to Ammaji and apologises for his past actions. He tells her that since the day in the forest he has been following Ammaji. Watching her dedication for animals, he has realised the cruelty and fruitlessness of his actions. He now wants to help Ammaji and repent his deeds.
Ammaji accepts him and Mohan begins working at the hospital.
Danger ahead, or rather below:
One day while coming from an errand Mohan falls into a pit. He goes back and tells Ammaji and Ramdhani that poachers have laid trap for animals. They must be planning something big.
So, now Ammaji and the villagers are against the poachers. As we know there target is a live elephant, which could be Padmini. Who wins? The good people, obviously.
But how? Watch Anokha Aspatal for that.
The best thing about the movie is of course- Shammi Aunty. As I said earlier her character in the movie was such a stark contrast to others I have watched. The care, the concern for the animals she depicts was wonderful.
Then comes the basic premise. That there is a hospital catering to wild animals inside a forest and that the animals recognise it, come to be treated and leave afterwards, was really unique.
The next aspect is the active involvement of the villagers in the protection of forests and its rightful residents. It’s noteworthy as it depicts the essence of the principle behind Participatory Management. Indeed India has shifted to the policy of participatory management of forests since late 1980’s. And it still has great scope to be utilised as a tool for the protection and proper management of our forests and its inhabitants.
To wrap this up, I will just quote Ammaji’s dialogue from the film:
“Jeevan ka aadhar Jeev aur Van hain. Agar inka aadar nahin karoge to is dharti par sabhyata naam ki koi cheez nahin bachegi.”
(Animals & Forests are the basis of life. If we do not respect them then there will be no civilisation left on Earth.”)
DISCLAIMER: The screenshots, stills and videos from the movie are included here only for
the purpose of information, entertainment and propagation of children’s cinema. The
copyright over the film rests with the owners/ producers of the movie.