Even as the country has started taking baby steps towards gradually allowing the members of the LGBTQ community to become part of the social milieu, there’s still a long way before they are widely accepted and are allowed to lead a life as part of which they can start a loving family, and be part of one. Saving Chintu, a short film by Tushar Tyagi and produced by Ritika Jayaswal and Adil Hussain highlights the same while specifically focusing on issues such as HIV-AIDS and child adoption.
The story narrates the tale of a queer couple, Olivar and Sam, who comes to India from New York to illegally adopt Chintu, a child suffering from HIV-AIDS. Running for 30 minutes, the film sheds light upon the couple’s relationship and how Sam comes up with a foolproof plan to save the child, while also giving a peek into their lives before Chintu came along. Their story runs parallel to that of a doctor and his wife who want to adopt a child.
But Chintu isn’t a figment of Tyagi’s imagination; his film derives inspiration from real-life incidents. “I was very close to my doctor in Los Angeles. Back in 2016, at a dinner, I got to know that he was illegally adopted by his American parents from India. As a child suffering from malnourishment and tuberculosis, his parents wanted the process to complete as quickly as possible in order to treat his ailments,” he told indianexpress.com
Tyagi, however, adds that the film is also inspired by the life of Jeremy, someone he met at a spiritual retreat in Rishikesh. “I went to an ashram in Rishikesh to detoxify myself, emotionally and spiritually. On the second day, I got introduced to Jeremy who was living in India for the last 20 years and used to run a kids’ shelter in Maharashtra,” shared Tyagi, adding that a queer guy originally from New York, Jeremy came to India after being diagnosed with HIV-AIDS. “Currently, he has two shelters and is in the process of opening more,” he added.
The movie begins with actor Adil Hussain playing the role of the doctor travelling in a state bus to a government hospital where he treats children. The next scene goes back three decades and shows Sam and Oliver in New York as they pack their bags to leave for India. It then goes on to show how, once the couple reaches India, Sam comes up with a foolproof plan which involves acting out a fake marriage in front of the adoption officer because deep down he knew they will never be allowed to adopt a child as a queer couple.
This plan surprises Oliver leading to an argument between the two, thus highlighting the harsh reality of the implausible situation faced by queer parents when it comes to adopting a child in India.
The film touches upon various situations with the utmost sensitivity. In one scene the camera focuses on Sam nervously trying to tie a necktie, while still being unsure about wearing one. On asking his partner if he should wear a tie, Oliver says, “cut it, Sam”, while immediately reassuring him that the adoption procedure will go smoothly. The same scene repeats at the very end where the doctor is shown feeling edgy as he stands in front of the mirror, also trying to tie a tie, and asks his wife if he should wear the same, and she replies, “cut it, Chintu”. The camera then slowly pans on a beautiful picture of Oliver and Sam holding Chintu.
The film is sure to leave you with moist eyes and a smile on your face. However, fun fact: This wasn’t what the director had planned. “For most movies, the script is prepared before it is fully shot. Saving Chintu was shot at a time when the storyline was still in its formation stages. Before the final scene was to be shot, I changed the script because somehow it didn’t make sense to me. Later, I went to the actors to discuss the script two hours prior to the shoot and they loved the narrative” said Tyagi.
Saving Chintu is a film that gives you hope and puts into perspective the protagonists’ emotional complexities while bringing forth social issues. The film also rekindles the belief that love indeed is love, no matter who you are or where you belong.
The film has was recently screened at Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival, Out on Film Atlanta festival in September and will be seen on South Asian Film Festival of Cincinnati in October. They are also planning to run under the live-action short category for Oscars 2021.
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