#Opinion

Saving Chintu – The Short Film Focuses On Homophobia And Adoption Of HIV+ Persons

Tushar Tyagi’s life was changed four years ago by a discussion over supper. One of his acquaintances, a doctor in Los Angeles, told him about his adoptive parents, an American  couple who overcame all barriers to provide him with a better life. Tyagi was moved by his struggle and triumph and wanted to make a film about it. From conception to completion, the process was anything but simple. 

Tyagi put the project on hold for two years before picking up the pieces again. For Saving Chintu he assembled a dream cast too. Ritika Jayaswal and Adil Hussain produced the 30-minute short film, which also includes Hussain and Dipannita Sharma in prominent roles. Edward Sonneblick, Sachin Bhatt and Priyanka Setia are among the cast members.

Saving Chintu Battles Homophobia And Adoption 

Saving Chintu is a work that addresses subjects such as LGBTQIA+ awareness and the adoption of HIV-positive children. The film has been selected for 15 Indian and international film festivals, as well as qualified for Oscars in 2021.

“In my opinion, the best way to reach remote areas and conservative townships especially when it comes to sensitive issues like these would be to create awareness groups whose main responsibility is to talk about LBGTQIA+ rights in the formats that are familiar to people of these remote areas, like in the form of street plays,” Tushar says. Adding, “I think we as an Indian society have a lot of unlearning to do when it comes to LGBTQIA+ so safe talking groups that create awareness will be quite helpful.”

Adoption became permitted for LGBTQIA+ people in the United Kingdom in 2005. This is only legal in 14% of countries in the world as of 2020. Tushar Tyagi and Ritika Jayaswal examine questions of acceptance and the power of infinite love in the touching film. According to Jayaswal, India’s “2018 Supreme Court judgement decriminalising homosexuality” was a watershed moment, although it is still “tough” for LGBTQ+ persons to “create a family or adopt.” She believes that ‘cultural acceptability is a considerably greater barrier’ than legal approval. Saving Chintu also highlights the persistence of prejudice against HIV-positive youngsters and adults.

“I felt very fulfilled. filled with gratitude, I’m rarely creatively satisfied but the kind of evolved satisfaction Saving Chintu brought is very humbling. My purpose is to tell this tender story with all my honesty and seeing that I was able to do that, brings me joy,” he says. Tyagi’s previous work aimed to raise public awareness about topics like celibacy, prostitution, poverty, and violent relationships. His work is always interesting and thought-provoking, with characters who are both flawed and hopeful and who make mistakes while also making courageous decisions. Chintu’s rescue is no exception.

Tyagi and Jayaswal illustrate difficulties encountered by LGBTQIA+ and HIV+ persons around the world by integrating and interweaving two narratives about adoption. A heterosexual Indian couple and a gay American pair, Sam (Sachin Bhatt) and Oliver (Edward Sonnenblick) are compared as potential adoptive parents. All four possible adoptive parents are warm, loving and looking forward to the adoption process. Sam and Oliver return to Sam’s natal country of India to adopt an HIV+ child named Chintu (which means “love to all,” “sweetness,” and “sun”). Mira, a college acquaintance, assists Sam (Dipannita Sharma).

The orphanage manager, who is primarily concerned with money and Sam’s conformance to societal norms, represents the authorities and the status quo. He also claims that adopting “the AIDs patient” is “brave,” demonstrating the disgusting but all-too-common cultural bias. Furthermore, his repeated mentions of money make us wonder what ‘price’ Sam will have to pay (and what he’s ready to give up) in order to adopt Chintu. As the unlawful phoney marriage certificate is reviewed and the manager’s queries lead to a weird request for Sam to ‘kiss’ Mira, tension is skillfully established and sustained. 

The constant presence of operations, medicines and references to illness suggest that the population is not only striving to stay healthy but is also sick of discrimination and prejudice. Cars, buses and trips recur as motifs, illustrating the need for development in attitudes about HIV+ and LGBTQIA+ people. ‘Together we battle HIV,’ says a poster on the bus. Saving Chintu demonstrates love and fortitude, which leads to personal and possibly societal development. This film serves as a reminder that our similarities are always more important than our differences.


Suggested Reading: What Disease Did Your Father Have? Why is HIV still such a taboo?


“The OTT has given a space for intellectual cinema to evolve,” says Tushar. “Woke” filmmakers are telling stories that matter and he has noticed that now there is an increased sense of responsibility to do a lot of research on the development level of the script to make sure marginalised communities like LGBTQIA are not portrayed in stereotypical ways or just reduced to caricature. “There is still a long way to go but looking at the trajectory of growth makes me hopeful,” he adds. 

The views expressed are the author’s own.