It’s the quintessential emergency scene in Tamil cinema, mostly involving the hero. Placed mostly as a pre-climax scene just before the big showdown with the villain, our hero would be battling for his life in a hospital. The hero’s mother would be praying, the heroine would be shedding bucketloads of tears, but everything is lost. The ECG shows a straight line.
The hero is dead. But fear not, for the doctor pulls out the magical device of resurrection: the defibrillator. The hero’s body is shocked, and presto, he wakes up, all refreshed and ready to fight. Films like Sivaji (2007), Raja Rani (2013) and Theri (2016) used this idea, and in the former, an entire plan is crafted around the resurrection of the hero using the device, as though it were a given.
City-based consultant intensivist and pulmonologist Jackin Moses hasn’t seen a whole lot of films, but remembers this scene from Sivaji. “It’s always been in my memory because the hero, if I remember right, is dead for more than 30 minutes. And yet, the doctor (played by Raghuvaran) brings him back to life.”
Jackin clarifies: “CPR is the gold standard for resuscitating a patient who has had a cardiac arrest. A defibrillator can only be used when there are shockable rhythms. In other words, the patient has to be suffering from a certain medical condition to use a defibrillator; not like in the aftermath of an accident like they show in films.”
The good doctor says that the defibrillator is used only in the rarest of cases. “I’d say maybe one or two cases in about 70,” he says. “Even then there’s no guarantee that it will work.” What about all the scenes where the ECG shows a straight line, and then, a shock or two later, it changes into a T wave. He laughs: “It’s impossible. Once the ECG shows a straight line, there’s no point in shocking.”
He’s a doctor, and so, he has other minor grouses with how a defibrillator is used. “Our films usually show the doctor placing the paddles side by side. But in truth, one paddle is placed on your chest bone, while the other goes on the apex of the heart. I genuinely pray that people know that films are just for entertainment and don’t take these procedures too seriously,” he says.