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Not just another AIDS movie: Maker of Gulabi Aaina ready with 68 Pages October 24, 2007

Posted by humsafar in counselor, Gulabi Aaina, HIV Positive, humsafar trust, indian express 68 pages, Indian film, Jaago, Mira Nair, MSM, NACO, Piyush Roy, sridhar rangayan, vivek anand, Vrushali Deshmukh.
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By : Piyush Roy, Sunday , October 07, 2007
Indian Express

Mira Nair’s AIDS JAAGO—a combination of four short films on AIDS-related cases from India also showcasing directors like Santosh Sivan, Vishal Bharadwaj, Farhan Akhtar—may have been courting news for its premiere at the recently concluded Toronto Film Festival, closer home, another director Sridhar Rangayan’s third film, 68 Pages, is doing the same—albeit quietly.
His film weaves together five empathetic Mumbai-based short stories revolving around AIDS victims from some of the marginalised sections of society like a sex worker, a transsexual bar dancer and a gay couple. The common thread is hope.

Rangayan, who had earlier made two films revolving around the Indian homosexual community including the critically acclaimed Gulabi Aaina (India’s first film on drag queens that made it to the official selection of over 30 international film festivals) says: “Though we have been making proposals to various bodies for the last two years for an advocacy film on the issue of AIDS amongst MSMs (men having sex with men/ homosexuals) and transgenders it didn’t progress beyond the concept note till a UK agency, DFID, chipped in early this year to produce it in association with the Humsafar Trust.”

Vivek Anand, executive producer and co-writer of 68 Pages—he is also CEO of Humsafar Trust—says: “We made it as a support to the National AIDS Control Programme Phase 3, which in its third and latest phase aims to focus on issues amongst homosexuals, transgenders, sex-workers and intravenous drug users, all of who find representation in the film.”

While three million people are estimated to be HIV positive in India today, according to the NSS 2005 survey, 7.5 per cent among MSMs, 8.5 per cent among sex-workers and 49 per cent among transgenders are reported to have tested positive, adds Anand.

68 Pages is based on real life experiences of Vrushali Deshmukh, a former counsellor with the Humsafar Trust. “She worked with us from 1999 to the fall of 2004 and handled over 6,000 cases involving MSMs and transgenders in Mumbai,” says Anand, adding, “And like her onscreen character Mansi, she too did go to the Columbia University to do her Masters in Public Health.”

Rangayan, who has for the first time opted for well-known faces from TV and theatre like Mouli Ganguly, Jayati Bhatia, Zafar Karachiwala and Joy Sengupta, says, “Known faces help in pushing an advocacy issue forward. We initially toyed with the idea of casting Smriti Irani or Mona Singh in the counsellor’s role because they are perceived as compassionate and strong characters, but then realised that their onscreen images of Tulsi and Jassi were too overbearing. So we zeroed in on Mouli Ganguly.”

Anand reveals that the entire cast and crew of 68 Pages worked at half their market prices for the film that was wrapped up in 11 days in Mumbai. “We made it at one per cent the budget of Salaam-e-Ishq and 10 perc ent of Bheja Fry,” says Rangayan.

Rangayan hopes the pre-release goodwill will contribute to him being third time lucky with the Indian Censor Board. Though internationally feted, both his previous films still await a censor certificate for an India screening. “We applied thrice with the board in Delhi for releasing my last film Yours Emotionally! But forget okaying it with a cut or two, they rejected it.”

Hopefully 68 Pages will have it better.

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Public Voices August 16, 2007

Posted by humsafar in 68 pages, Brinelle D’Souza, Dr. Hemangi Jerajani, film on HIV/AIDS, humsafar trust, LTMG Hospital, McGill University, Samapathik Trust, SNDT University, sridhar rangayan, TISS, vivek anand.
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(Audience reactions from the couple of previews held recently)

“The film is a sensitive and touching portrayal of marginalized communities.”
~ Dr. Rajeev Jerajani, psychiatrist

“I screen hundreds of films in this preview theatre but hardly watch them. Today, I just started watching and saw the entire film and had tears in my eyes.”
~ Projectionist, Star preview theatre, Mumbai

“Your film is a slap on the face of society.”
~ Gitanjali Dhulekar, a viewer

“Good Job…Good Performances”
~ Bindu Madhav Khire, Samapathik Trust, Pune

“Excellent Performances”
~ Sujal, a viewer

“Good Potential for mainstream”
~ Sanjay Thakur, a viewer

“Outstanding”
~ Kevin Menezes, a viewer

“I had actually come to attend another function at this venue but I did not leave the auditorium when I started seeing this film even though I realized my mistake. The film says a lot about HIV positive people.”
~ a viewer

“Never realized that people like Umrao exist in society. Umrao’s character is amazing.”
~ Avinash Mehto, Head of Avi Creations, an edit set-up

“The film was so compelling that I had to come for the second screening too”
~ Abhijit Aher, a viewer

“This film has inspired me and I want to become a counselor.”
~ Umang Sheth, a viewer

“For the first time, there’s a film that recognizes the efforts of counselors.”
~ Kalpita Patil-Lanjekar, a counselor

“In one stroke, you have made counselors more important than doctors and destroyed the myth that only doctors can help”
~ Dr. Maninder Setia, Ph.D. student at McGill University, Montreal

“The discrimination shown in the film is so real. We have seen it all and lived it all.”
~ Dr. Hemangi Jerajani, Head of the Department, Skin and Dermatology, LTMG Hospital, Mumbai

“A sensitive portrayal of a real-life counselor and a true profile of a TISS student.”
~ Brinelle D’Souza, professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

“Extremely touching and sensitive, the film deals with issues of HIV positive people in a real manner.”
~ Rita Sonawat, Head of the Department, Human Development, SNDT University, Mumbai

“I am grateful to Rita m’am for bringing me along to watch this film. It should be made mandatory viewing for all youth in the country.”
~ a student of SNDT University

“There are many times when I have gone home from work and cried for the pain of my counselees. And this film reflects my feelings.”
~ Rajashree, a counselor

“V. Good ! an eye opener ! Good educational film”
~ Kanchan Karani, a viewer

“The film is an eye-opener to the kind of good work being done with HIV positive people.”
~ Rekha Shah, a viewer

“Four years of my life flashed in front of my eyes. I thought I was reliving my life at Humsafar once again.”
~ Vrushali Deshmukh, ex-counseling head at The Humsafar Trust, Mumbai, the woman on whose experiences the film is based