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A Reel Call on AIDS Awareness

Times of India
30 July 2010
Chennai, India

A reel call on AIDS awareness
If you were sharing a bus journey with Sundari, you would probably exchange a smile and ask where she shopped for saris or discuss children and their education. With her smiling eyes and cheerful face, she is the last person to fit into your idea of a person diagnosed as HIV positive. Or that four years ago, she withdrew from society and went into depression. “My children are studying now and I will always be there for them,”she says.

Sundari was among 50 HIV positive people who turned up to watch the Tamil version of ‘AIDS jaago,’ an anthology of four short films on HIVAIDS on Thursday. For all of them, it has been a journey to hell and back, “specially since family members do not know how to deal with it and society marginalises us,”as one of them said.

To break the stigma and discrimination, leading filmmakers had made the short films, commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. Vishal Bharadwaj’s ‘Blood Brothers’ showcases two HIV positive men dealing the condition in diametrically opposite ways, while Mira Nair’s ‘Migration’ meshes a gay man trapped in a marriage with a migrant labourer’s casual sex transmitting the virus. Both the films won rounds of applause. Equally appreciated where Farhan Akhtar’s ‘Positive’ depicting the struggle between a father with full blown AIDS and his angry son. It was, however, Santosh Sivan’s ‘Prarambh’ that got standing ovation. Starring Prabhu Deva and Saroja Devi, the 12–minute film is a touching story of a child going in search of his AIDS–afflicted mother, for which reason also he is dismissed from school. “The films are our biographies,”said Gopi, a HIV–positive transgender.

The mood turned sombre, but Dr R Lakshmibai, project director of TN AIDS Initiative (TAI), brought them out of it by singing the lilting ‘Unnai kandu naan ada’ from the film ‘Kalyana Parisu’. “There is a lot of stigma attached to HIV. We need more openness and awareness,”said VHS secretary Dr ES Krishnamurthy.

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