How to make medical decisions based on Bollywood movies

A few days ago, I wrote a short medical article on how Bollywood was an excellent source of information on how to treat bullet wounds. Based on the excellent feedback I received, I decided to search for a suitable venue for publication in a scholarly medical journal. Physicians and life scientists generally use PubMed, a comprehensive database provided by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

In searching the database, I came across a medical article published in the March 2010 issue of The Journal of ECT entitled  “The depiction of electroconvulsive therapy in Hindi cinema.” You probably didn’t know this, but  electroconvulsive therapy or ECT is  popularly referred to as “shock therapy” in Bollywood movies.

Who knew?

The authors of the medical research article, all Indian physicians, felt that Hindi movies were a source of misinformation on shock therapy. To remedy the injustice, they first identified 13 Hindi movies between 1967 and 2008 “based on inquiries with e-communities, video libraries, and other sources.” These 13 movies were then listed in Table 1 of the research paper. The movies identified in this research were Jewel Thief, Raat aur Din, Khamoshi, Yarana, Arth, Coolie, Damini, Raja, Dastak, Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega, Kyon Ki, Woh Lamhe, and Manthan Ek Kashmakash (starring the other Sanjay Kumar and Anisha Babi if you insist on knowing).

The authors state that “between 1967 and 2008, 13 Hindi movies contained referrals to or depictions of ECT.” I hope they had good reasons for excluding Pagla Kahin Ka, Khilona, and Dhara , all of which that have explicit referrals to ECT within that time-frame.

Shockingly, the authors found inaccuracies in the depiction of ECT in Hindi movies. Who would have thought?

The authors also provide a thorough discussion of the implications of these inaccuracies. Two points are worth quoting from the abstract of the medical article.

“Although the inaccuracies are a cause for concern, we suggest that because Hindi cinema is generally hyperbolic, the public may be willing to distinguish real life from reel life when facing clinical decisions about ECT.”

Hindi cinema, generally hyperbolic? Although I probably couldn’t recognize a hyperbole if it burst out in song-and-dance wearing a tomato red chiffon sari, it is possible that the authors’ comment might be a slight understatement.

“Nevertheless, considering the potential for harm in the dissemination of misinformation, filmmakers should exhibit a greater sense of ethics when creating impressions that might adversely influence health.”

Shame on you Hindi filmmakers for not having any ethics! Priyadarshan, I know you probably haven’t had time recently to browse through issues of The Journal of ECT, but I really must protest. This sort of ignorance on medical matters clearly will not do!

The public deserves better.

More Bollywood Science here.

Disclaimer: These are my personal views and do not necessarily represent the position of my current or former employers. I am not a physician and have no knowledge of ECT so my comments should be taken with a pinch of salt. Fair-use rationale of images: All images are low-resolution and used only for purposes of demonstration for no monetary gain where a free equivalent is not available. Copyright of original works resides with the original creators.

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

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How to kill small animals for no good reason

The dissection.

I stared in resignation at the pouch-like underbelly that contained all of the entrails of Rana, the unfortunate amphibian in front of me. It looked so fresh.

No matter. Best to get this over with as soon as possible. Singh Sir had a zero-tolerance policy towards miscreants in his class and the orders were simple enough. We were to chop up the poor bastards in the two periods before Macbeth or fail biology.

No one who ever sat through Singh Sir’s biology practical class would ever be able to look at a frog the same way again. Resting on the dissection board with arms and legs strewn unnaturally like a martyr was an anesthetized specimen. A few hours earlier, it had been hopping on the grassy knoll, licking buzzing winged-insects in blissful ignorance of what Lab Instructor Mahato had in store for it.

Mahato caught my specimen along with the others and kept in a see-through plastic bin with a few small holes at the top. As class started, he put it in a plastic bag with a little bit of chloroform and shook it up vigorously until it became limp. I imagined that I saw an sadistic smile on his face and an evil glint in his eyes. What other reason could there be for subjecting us to this unnecessary spectacle? Couldn’t he have done this before class?

My mind wandered. The humid air was rank with chloroform and somnolence. I could hear the blades of the fan slicing the heavy air with gurgling sounds. In this funereal setting, a bunch of lily-livered Indian high-school students stretched out frogs and pinned them down to the gelatinous surfaces of dissection boards. It was as if we were the Roman sentry crucifying Jesus. Of course, all of this was part of the plan. The innards of the prisoner were to be released and to be sketched out in nauseating detail in the lab notebook.

“Take your scalpel from your dissection kit and make an I-shaped incision,” advised the manual. Those of us who had not eaten breakfast obliged more willingly than the others. “Pull back the flaps of skin and pin down,” the manual instructed, as if doing so were as natural as opening a window in the morning to let in the warm sun.

With much trepidation, I ran my scalpel across the turgid, rotund underbelly. The beast opened up like an overfilled pillow. There was little blood.

I lifted the flaps of skin and pinned down to the sides as instructed. It was then that I first peered down the hood into the chassis. Rana’s outstretched body-cavity with all the glistening organs was there to behold in grisly, naked glory. Barely a centimeter in length and squirming like a caterpillar was the heart, which was surrounded on either side by tiny lungs that looked as fluffy as gossamer. I sharpened my dark drawing pencil and began to draw Rana’s organs on to the rough sheet of paper in front of me. I pressed too hard and broke the lead.  I erased the outline and swatted away the gritty mix of lead and rubber shavings. I started again.

I was interrupted by Joydeep who was shifting nervously in the bench next to mine. I looked up and saw that his specimen had exploded releasing tons of shiny, round eggs.

I began to feel queasy. How I got through the rest of class, I do not remember.

Needless to say, it was not Leonardo Da Vinci that sketched the symmetry of life in his notebooks in biology class that day. The chicken-scrawl I handed in to Singh Sir was labeled with the names of organs that I copied from the textbook at home.

The aftermath.

I didn’t fail biology and my parents were happy.

Years rolled by and I moved on. Rana perished like many of the finest four-legged amphibians of his generation in the sweaty classrooms of Indian high-school and college campuses. Seventy million died in flashlight-driven purges in the heydays of the foreign-currency generating frog-leg industry. Two endemic species of amphibians were discovered only to go extinct locally soon thereafter.

I have heard the argument from educators that dissections of small animals such as frogs are useful because anatomically they resemble humans. I can say this: there was certainly nothing humane about what we did in class that day. We did not cut up the animals for the sake of devouring them or (ostensibly) advancing human knowledge; we did it to pass a course which we were not interested in. I often wonder if we could not have learned the same information by looking at diagrams or plastic models.

Very few of us pursued careers in medicine. I suspect that the dissections in the grimy, hot classroom that day taught us more about ourselves than we were prepared to learn.

Perhaps, it is the realization that like frogs we are essentially a messy bag of chemicals waiting to get chopped up, incinerated, or buried six feet under?

Frog image courtesy frecuencia@sxc.

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

Will the real Nithyananda please stand up?

My fellow desi ladies and gentlemen:

I stand here humbled by the historic significance of the moment. Last night from the chawls of Chennai to the  burbs of Boston, from the galis of Gandhinagar to the gulleys of Galipoli, from the sarson fields of Sasaram to single-flats of Stratford-upon-Avon, we rose together in unison to praise and deify Swami Nithyananda Paramhamsa!

Those who do not know the Divine One may ask sacrilegiously, “who is this Nithyananda? Of what element is he made?” In fact, before last night, I myself had not heard his name.  But when I heard the call of duty from a Higher Power [1], like thousands of my fellow countrymen, did I not rise to the occasion? Swami Nithyananda, the spiritual and temporal master, he of strong will and firm body, owner of sacred Ashram in Bidadi, conqueror of almost all the vices, [2] did he not deserve deification? [3]

When we heard that Swami Nithyananda and an anonymous devadasi [4] were together, we knew it was to maintain divine mingling of shakti and purusha and to restore the Cosmic Balance of the Universe.  The ethereal moment passed through ethernet and guru and shishya were (and I quote from an  article)  “lying on a bed and doing personal things with each other”. Aah, who can fathom the leela of His Worship?

Passing the baton of messages, [5] across the globe, thousands of us chanted the mahamantra [6]. It was the day and night stugggle of good and evil- the devas and the asuras, the yin and the yang. And by his benevolence and the prayers of his devotees, #nithyananda became a trending topic on Twitter reaching a million souls [7] ! So that the pearls of wisdom do not get lost in the sands of time, these were painstakingly collected [8] for future generations.

But now the following day, as the demons of darkness [9] try to insult Guruji, should we sit and do nothing? Shall the enormity of the moment lapse into distant memory? Nay, I say for we must remember to heart the scriptures that were chanted.

Last night in the midst of the mellifluous strains of tweet-sangeet we realized the Absolute Truth.

I am Nithyananda. You are Nithyananda. We are all Nithyananda. Tat tvam asi.

Thank you.

________________

Footnotes:

[1] namely, Ramesh Srivats

[2] lust is insignificant says Sri Hallmark.

[3] not defecation

[4] Ranjitha

[5] 140 characters or less

[6] “___ by day, ___ by night”. Some mantas here.

[7] reach calculated by the Wall Street Journal

[8] by Blogadda

[9] Times of India

If you have no clue what this spoof is about, please read this piece in the Wall Street Journal.

How to treat non-lethal bullet injuries: lessons from Bollywood movies

Abstract: There is currently insufficient detail on how to perform emergency surgery for ridiculous bullet wounds that result from confronting Hindi film villains in everyday situations. Therefore, a clinical survey was undertaken with the purpose of identifying acceptable medical procedures compliant with known Bollywood practices. Two case studies presented here demonstrate that despite identical etiology, disparate outcomes result from the state of inebriation of the patient during the medical procedure. Here, the “daru kharab cheez hai” (liquor is evil) theory is validated using the popular Bollywood actor Dharmendra as a test subject. Therefore, it is the recommendation of the author that caretakers use alcohol only as a local disinfectant in order to avoid unnecessary molestation of health-workers. It is hoped that the research presented here will ultimately lead to a renaissance in modern health-care.

Figure 1: Successful surgical procedure for ballistic trauma

Introduction: The goals of this study are two-fold.

One of the least appreciated concepts in modern medicine is the “daru kharab cheez hai” theory widely prevalent in Hindi films (Vide Anthony Gonsalves et al. 1977). Briefly, this theory states that filmi heroes perform uncommon and unnatural acts under the influence of alcohol, which they would otherwise avoid. However, alcohol is also widely used in Hindi films as a local disinfectant for emergency surgical procedures and to prevent hypothermia after song-and-dance routines in Switzerland. To address this disparity, a comprehensive review of the wide body of relevant Bollywood filmography was performed.

The second goal of this study is to recommend appropriate field practices for treating trauma injuries. Filmi heroes are known to be exceptionally prone to non-fatal ballistic injuries suffered from poor aiming at close quarters by villains and/or their cronies. These injuries can be identified by a simple chemical examination for tomato sauce or water-soluble paint.

Methods: One filmi hero, Dharmendra, referred to colloquially as Dharam Paaji (D.P.), was subjected to different ridiculous, but non-life-threatening injuries (Vide: Kartavya; Shehezaade). A knife was sterilized by the acceptable method of heating on stove. The heroines (Rekha and Jaya Prada, respectively) were then instructed to remove the bullet. In the control study, D.P.  did not drink any alcohol, whereas in the experimental analysis alcohol was taken by mouth at the dose of one bottle of Old Monk desi rum and one bottle of VAT69 blended phoren scotch.

Figure 2: Validating the "daru kharab cheez hai" theory

Results and Discussion: The results presented herein (Figures 1 and 2) unambiguously establish the benefit of using the “knife to wound” method for treating bullet injuries.

Based on the results presented, the author would like to caution against allowing the filmi hero to imbibe alcohol during the 24 hours before or after the surgical procedure as it can result in undesirable outcomes.

Acknowledgments: The author wishes to thank the makers of Kartavya and Shehezade for sharing of materials and methods.

Mandatory Disclosure: No animals were harmed during these experiments.

References:  1. All images are low-resolution and used only for the demonstration of the purpose of the study. Copyright of original works resides with the original creators.

2. The text is subject to copyright (registration in USA and India) and cannot be used without prior permission from the author and publisher (A.M.).

More Bollywood Science here.