The Supreme Court may have decriminalised homosexuality but there are many challenges that the community still faces; to be accepted by society, live a normal life that includes having a family are among those hardships.
Focusing on issues like LGBTQ awareness and adoption of HIV-positive children is short film Saving Chintu. Directed by Tushar Tyagi and produced by Ritika Jayaswal and Adil Hussain, it stars Adil Hussain, Dipannita Sharma, Bollywood-based American actor Edward Sonneblick, Los Angeles-based actor Sachin Bhatt and Priyanka Setia. The film has been selected for 15 film festivals, Indian and international, and it has also been qualified to run for Oscars 2021.
A sensitive tale of an Indian-American gay couple, played by Sam (Sachin) and Oliver (Edward), it explores their journey of adopting a child in India. It narrates how they come all the way from New York to illegally adopt Chintu (Arihant Angad Nayak), who is suffering from HIV-AIDS.
As the story unfolds, we come face-to-face with the emotional tapestry of their relationship. Sam devices a plan to save Chintu by faking marriage with his friend Mira (Dipannita) as he thinks the adoption officer may not support the idea of two fathers for Chintu (highlighting the lack of acceptance of gay relationship). In a sub-plot, we are introduced to Dr Sanjay (Adil) and his wife (Priyanka), who also plan to adopt a child.
These aren’t just ideas brought on celluloid, these are real stories that Tushar improvised to convey a message. “I knew the LGBTQ+ rights needed to be mainstreamed and I had it in my mind to make a short film on it. Some years back, in Los Angeles, my doctor shared he was illegally adopted from India by his American parents. He was suffering from malnourishment and tuberculosis and his parents wanted to expedite the adoption process so that they could begin his treatment,” he says.
It became the bedrock for Tushar’s next direction. Another real-life incident added more meat to it and he stacked it together. “At a spiritual retreat in Rishikesh, I met Jeremy, who came to India from New York after being diagnosed with HIV-AIDS. He has been living in India for over 20 years and runs a shelter home for children here. Today he has 30 HIV positive kids whom he is providing with home schooling. There were many hurdles he faced in the process of setting it all up—the discrimination HIV people including the kids face, the stigma attached and the lack of education about HIV and AIDS.”
The heavy dose of reality became instrumental in getting Adil on board. “He is a perfectionist. When he read the script, he gave his nod right away.” All that Tushar wants is to support the LGBTQ community in the fight for their rights and hopes for a change in the outlook of people as they approach the community.