When Ravindra Godse, M.D., a Pittsburgh internist turned part-time filmmaker, decided to make a comedy about a doctor in the midst of a midlife crisis, he was surprised at the support he received from his partners and friends.
If I were a successful doctor in India, they would have laughed at me, says Godse, who moved to Pittsburgh in 1995 from Mumbai, India. Here, I get admired and respected for pursuing what I love.
Earlier this year, Dr. Ravi & Mr. Hyde, which Godse wrote and directed, was released on DVD. It is a good-natured comedy filled with medical, situational and pop culture humor in which Godse plays himself as a witty physician who pursues a single-minded dream of making a timeless, classic movie.
The message of Dr. Ravi, Godse says, is that regardless if you succeed or fail, it is OK to try new things.
To quote Mark Twain, 20 years from now you are more likely to regret things you didnt do than the ones you did, Godse says. I am very pleased with how the movie was received. Trailers for the 87-minute movie can be seen at ravihyde.com.
Admittedly, Godse was a little nervous when Dr. Ravi debuted in front of 200 friends and co-workers at the UPMC Shadyside campus of UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh. Many of the scenes were filmed at the 490-bed hospital.
It was one of my most gratifying moments because there was a good reaction, he says. I was a little worried because it is difficult to make a comedy. When you make a horror movie you have all the gore, but in a comedy you just have jokes. I was relieved when they laughed at the right parts.
Godse practices with two other internists in McKees Rocks, a suburb west of Pittsburgh on the Ohio River. I work 70 hours a week, he says. Each year, however, Godse takes three weeks off to pursue one of his other hobbies: studying history through world travel.
My partners are very supportive. They know I am a good guy and would do anything for them, he says. My patients like me. I socialize with them. They have my cell phone number and can call me anytime.
Born in a small town outside Mumbai, Godse, 39, grew up wanting to be a history professor. But his parents, both high school teachers, suggested he become a doctor and pursue history as a hobby.
Interestingly, Godse wasnt particularly interested in movies until his cousin became a top actress in India. I used to chaperone her to film shoots and became fascinated in the technical aspects of making movies, he says. I thought it could be done in a more organized way.
After receiving his medical degree from the University of Bombay in 1992, Godse practiced three years as an internist in India. He completed his internal medicine residency at the now-closed St. Francis Medical Center, Pittsburgh.
Medicine here isnt much different but practicing is, Godse says. Nursing is much better here. I dont think nurses get enough credit for what they do.
While in medical school, Godse released his creative passions by writing a comic novel, 2 Guys, 3 Girls and a Mad Professor. The book is the story about the efforts of an Indian mother to find husbands for her two independent-minded daughters. Published in 2002, the book became the fifth best-selling fiction book in India in 2003, he says.
I wanted to make it into a movie. I thought I ought to go to film school to learn how to do it, he says. So, for two years Godse studied filmmaking one night each week at Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Originally, Dr. Ravi was a 10-minute student project.
Godse says he has no favorite movies or directors, but he admires Steven Spielberg. Some reviews compare me to Woody Allen, but the only Woody Allen movie I ever saw was Annie Hall in film school, he says.
With a budget of about $70,000, Godse completed the principal shooting of Dr. Ravi in five days. While he used professionals to perform the technical jobs like photography and lighting, he used friends, fellow doctors and co-workers as actors. For example, his real-life receptionist, Sandra Miller, plays a receptionist in the movie. On the other hand, the part of his wife is played by nurse Olga Segall, who is called Dr. Hunter in the movie.
The doctors, including cardiologist Bryan Donohue, were also played by actual physicians, he says.
I couldnt afford professional actors, so I cast people I knew, he says. I wanted to make the movie in Hitchcock style with no ad-libbing. I wrote the script and stuck to it except for one actor who couldnt get his lines right.
Cutting scenes and editing were the most difficult aspects of making Dr. Ravi. You have made those scenes and you have to cut them out if they dont make sense, he says.
Later this year Godse expects to release his next movie, I Am a Schizophrenic and So Am I, which demonstrates his penchant for wordplay. He described the movie as a courtroom drama with comic relief in which a doctor gets sued. There is a twist at the end, but the surprise is that the hero of the movie is not the doctor, but his defense attorney.
I like to make comedies, Godse says. It is a reflection of what you know the best and where I feel most comfortable. In my own daily life, I am a good party person. I always have a good joke to tell, and fill it with historical anecdotes.
Balancing filmmaking and medicine is easy, Godse says. I have an advantage because I only need to sleep four hours a day, he says.
But Godse says he has no plans to give up medicine for filmmaking. I enjoy medicine too much, he says. Five years down the road, I see myself making four or five movies. I am enjoying this.
Jay Greene is a former Modern Physician reporter and now a freelance healthcare writer based in St. Paul, Minn. Contact Greene at [email protected]
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