Mira Nair’s AIDS Jaago Project

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Acclaimed filmmaker Mira Nair has joined together with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to put the spotlight on the impact of HIV/AIDS. She and three other top directors are making short films about AIDS that will be shown before Bollywood features at theaters.

Nair said that a representative from the foundation contacted her and spoke to her about “the startling statistic that if we don’t control what’s happening in India in terms of the lack of awareness and stigma and other things associated with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV),the magnitude of India’s AIDS epidemic could equal that of Africa in a few years.”

Nair said in response she,”proposed that I would get together the most cutting-edge, commercial, populist film directors from different regions of India, who would each use iconic movie stars who are recognized in our country, who would each make a dramatic tale of 15 minutes in length.”

Thus, the project called AIDS Jaago was born and she “wants to use the immense power of Indian cinema to wake people up about AIDS.”

Nair chose “the directors I most admire” to make the other 3 films and they include Vishal Bhardwaj, Santosh Sivan and Farhan Akhtar. Each director’s film will have a specific topic about the impact of AIDS on life. The films are also going to star well-known actors including Irfan Khan, Siddharth, Prabhu Deva, Samira Reddy, Shiney Ahuja and Reema Sen.

Nair’s short film is called Migration and she says it is, “about the virus as the great class leveller that links rural, urban, upper class, working class, migrant labour.”

Vishal Bhardwaj, the highly acclaimed director is directing Blood Brothers, a story of the emotional and mental impact of living with the disease and “living positively with it,” Nair said.

The third film deals with the stigma attached to being HIV positive. It is being made by Santosh Sivan, and is the true story about a boy who was not allowed to go to school because his parents were HIV positive. Sivan a director from the South Indian film industry won international praise for his film The Terrorist in 1998.

The fourth film by Farhan Akhtar, handles the topic of sex education and the need for it to be more open to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Farhan Khan is an upcoming director who is being hailed as a “wunderkind”.

The films are set to screen in India and eventually all over the world by the end of the year. Nair says, “They can really translate anywhere, China, Africa, anywhere,” she said, adding, “If these four films succeed, then next year we can get another four directors.”

We know that with these illustrious directors and the fine cast that the short films will be moving and unforgettable. We admire Nair and the other directors for taking on this project, and hope that they are successful and the project will continue to wake people up!

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