VICKY DONOR. Director: Soojit Sircar.
Players: Ayushmann Khurrana, Yami Gautam, Annu Kapoor, Dolly Ahluwalia. Music: Ketan Sodha. Theatrical release (Eros)
Sperm donation—there, we said it—and the social baggage sometimes associated with it is a perennial favorite topic for everyone from late night comedians to philosophers and doctors—not to mention self-convinced religion purists—who continue to debate the ethics of this practice. To take this highly topical modern social reality onto the big screen and making it somewhat relevant, approachable and, er, fertile is no small achievement. Vicky Donorwaves a light wand over the topic to come up with a social comedy that is winsome, funny, poignant and, ultimately, relevant.
Set in the crowded Delhi neighborhood of Lajpat Nagar, Juhi Chaturvedi’s story traces the under-achieving Vicky Arora (Khurrana), who dawdles away his time instead of assisting his mother Dolly (Ahluwalia) in her beauty parlor. Across town, the sperm bank operated by the professorial Baldev Chadda has an uncomfortably long list of prospective parents looking to directly or indirectly sire the next supermodel, industry tycoon or—this being India—cricket superstar.
Faced with acute shortage of “Aryan” sperm—a lineage Chaddha proudly claims to have traced back to progeny descended from Alexander the Great’s campaign in 4th century B.C. India—and overhearing that the dashing, non-smoking and nubile Vicky’s grandfather sired an unusually big brood, Chaddha triangulates his eyes on recruiting Vicky to enlist at the sperm facility. Vicky, who only has eyes for the hard-to-get bank teller Ashima (Gautam), finds himself caught in an interesting modern dilemma.
What works like a charm is fresh-faced cast of newcomers engaging in tongue in cheek urban fanfare—an always-crowded beauty parlor, a not so crowded sperm bank —while reveling in the quieter moments spent on Delhi roof tops, side-walk cafes and full-menu home cooked meals. Another well-injected element is the not-so-subtle interplay between regional Indian ethnicities converging in Vicky’s life. Vicky is Punjabi and Ashima is Bengali and some members of their respective clans don’t quite see eye to eye and hence continuously trade humorous chauvinistic darts at each other.
Khurrana aces the role of an innocent urban hunter-gatherer who must dip his toes into a complex phenomenon. Gautam, meanwhile, finesses her role as the shy working gal struggling with her own tryst with destiny. Vicky lavishes on the sizable income Chaddha pays Vicky for the nearly-daily visits to the clinic with nary a care for the consequences that await him if his new profession comes to light in his social circle. As Vicky’s windowed mother, Ahluwalia impresses with channeling the hardships of single parenthood and Kapoor is clinical stoicism personified.
In an off-kilter sense, Chaddha chasing after Vicky in hopes of convincing Vicky to take on this lucrative assignment could easily be the modern counterpart to Henry Higgins from George Cukor’s My Fair Lady who must convince his Eliza Doolittle/Vicky to get with the program. The fact that a Hindi movie can show a donor walking out of a private room at a sperm storing facility holding in his hand a vial filled with non-specified whitish liquid without a doubt takes cojones!
In another trendy scene, several dozen children conceived from sperm donated by one man are brought together. While anthropologists and medicals ethicists may gasp at the prospect of this same brood even living in the same city (let alone the same state) on the elevated chances of inter-breeding in future generations, in this mod Hindi feature the scene simply and delicately captures the fragile parent-child bond—regardless of where the sperm came from. While Vicky Donor does not contemplate any heavy handed preaching—it’s most serious threat could well be the publicity poster that cleverly conjures up imagery of scattering spermatozoa – it firmly and enjoyably lands on its own squiggly tail, er, two feet.