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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

AIDS Jaago

Today being World AIDS Day, I am going to talk about a brilliant bouquet of short films that I have had the privilege to see on UTV World Movies;
'AIDS Jaago' is a collection of four short films that address the AIDS menace which has been alarmingly threatening the Indian population just as several other countries worldwide.
The best thing about this collection of short films is that it is multilingual, and the films have been directed by four eminent Indian directors. It features some of the best known actors & actresses from India (from veterans like Shabana Azmi, Pankaj Kapoor, Boman Irani, Irrfan to the younger breed of talented performers like Siddharth, Prabhu Deva, Ayesha Takia, Sameera Reddy, Raima Sen and Arjun Mathur.

In each, the treatment is unique and the narrative keeps the viewer engrossed despite the foreknowledge that it primarily spreads awareness. None of the films have a dry, preachy tone that often makes many a well-intentioned docu-feature fail to connect with its target audience. Here, the dialogues are crisp, the screenplay taut and the performances competent; I can easily say that the films offer much more than the nuggets of wisdom regarding tackling of the AIDS menace & its preventive safeguards; a young film enthusiast can aspire to learn a lot from the masters by just watching their craft.

Made in 2007, in 35 mm, 'AIDS Jaago' is an Indo-American co-production, graced by the funding from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The total length of the film, with all the four segments, is just 71 minutes.
The segments are as follows:
Migration, directed by Mira Nair;
Prarambha/The Beginning, directed by Santosh Sivan;
Positive, directed by Farhan Akhtar;
Blood Brothers ,directed by Vishal Bharadwaj.

Of all the four films, I particularly loved Prarambha/The Beginning , the Kannada film by Santosh Sivan. In it, a truck driver (played by Prabhu Deva) meets a boy searching for his mother who had left him when she had learnt about being HIV-positive. The way in which the simpleton tries to get the boy, who also has the virus, back into school is touching in a dramatic way, yet it is every bit reflective of the real-life scenario.

In Blood Brothers, Siddharth plays a young man whose life falls apart after being told that he has got the virus; he is plagued by the guilt of having given in to carnal digression. In true Vishal Bharadwaj style, there is a bit of suspense too, and the character of Pawan Malhotra is shown acquiring an uncanny significance later in the tale.

In Migration, Mumbai go-getter Abhay (played by Irrfan) leads a double life, with his wife, Divya (Sameera Reddy), and a gay lover. Impoverished farmer Birju (Shiney Ahuja) has amorous encounters with the neglected Divya, while his own wife (Raima Sen) & baby test positive.

In Positive, a son returns home to nurse his once-philandering father, who is dying of AIDS. Shabana Azmi & Boman Irani excel as usual.

If you haven't been lucky to catch the films on television, you can surely watch them online at the Jaman site. [http://www.jaman.com/aidsjaago]
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Siddhu said...

It is really encouraging to see the Indian filmmakers have woken up to the need of the hour, educating the masses about AIDS and how to prevent it, using the popular idiom of films. But it remains to be seen how these messages get disseminated along the length & breadth of the country and if at all they find takers among the country's marginalised & high-risk groups.

Pratyush Mukhopadhyaya said...

As per the latest report, there are more than 2.5 million AIDS patients residing across India and the country is the third highest number of patients. The foundation hence wants to capitalize the popularity of Bollywood and Hindi films to spread Aids awareness.

Bill and Melinda Gates foundation contacted Nair and discuss the impact of AIDS and its growing effect in India, Africa and Nigeria. The project has been named as “AIDS jaago or Awake” to wake people up about AIDS.

Initially Nair has selected directors like Vishal Bhardwaj, Santosh Sivan and Farhan Akhtar and given one AIDS topic each. They are given the assignment to make a movie each of 15 minutes in length that will be screened ahead with the release of any block buster Bollywood movie in all theatres.

Sharmee said...

I loved the AIDS docu-shorts (fiction) cluster titled 'Jaago', found the real-life tales (largely inspired by them) really heart-wrenching.
The standout performances of Shiney Ahuja & Siddharth are the ones I liked best. The film by Mira Nair, though has a brilliant cast, left me hungry for more. Interestingly, it has Vijay Raaz & Bakhtiar Irani in wee-bit roles. Maybe they did it just for Mira Nair, who is now an accomplished name in the U.S. as well.
Vishal's 'Blood Brothers' was truly riveting for me. And I was glad that it was the last film, in the UTV World Movies screening of the anthology.

Satyaki said...

I am glad to read this special blog post of yours, buddy.
We really need to mobilise all our efforts in whatever we can to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.
The films in the 'Jaago' bouquet should have had a broader release and a greater reach by now, but the sad reality reflects our lacuna yet again!
More is written & talked about when Richard Gere kisses Shilpa Shetty at the social do marking the endeavours directed towards the cause of AIDS prevention, but propagating awareness about the killer disease becomes a far cry.
The short film 'Migration' poignantly shows how vulnerable we all get to be in a complex web of dysfunctional relationships.
Finally, I'd also like to focus on the fact, as does 'AIDS Jaago/Awake', that HIV doesn't discriminate between rich & poor, between the ones in the mainstream & the marginalised ones. It offers a great threat indeed & needs to be battled efficiently.

Imran said...

A high risk malady like AIDS can only be prevented if proper precautions are taken and greater awareness meted out to those who are ignorant of the virus & hence we must welcome films such as AIDS Jaago.
People who are HIV positive are still much plagued by people's apathy and the distance, restraint & inhibition that they have to battle even as they battle the deadly virus that strangles their immune system.
It would do us a lot of good if films on integrating the HIV positive people within the social fabric are shown to all, to send the right message.

Arunima said...

Media esp films play a very significant role in reaching out to the mass. It is films like these that leave an impression in the mind and give a wake up call. AIDS is a disease which not only has physical/medical implications but also deep down it shakes us up at different emotional and psychological levels. Kudos to the film makers to warm up to their important roles of spreading awareness and also to you for selecting such a meaningful topic for your post!

Aryan said...

The content in films like these is largely of the maudlin type, so wasn't too excited by the films, as a viewer. Blood Brothers was pretty good, and so was the film called Positive, but finally they do leave one with a message, an important one, and that takes centre-stage in the others, than the narrative power.

Anirban Halder said...

An apt post observing the day. It was a nice idea to bring the film to the notice of your readers. So many gems are buried under dust.

shiv said...

Long before 'Bombay Talkies' this anthology film, a bouquet of shorts, made a splash..... it should have made a bigger splash, but sadly it was not released widely in theaters.