Two US-based filmmakers, Ann S. Kim and Priya Giri Desai, have made a documentary titled “Lovesick” which revolves around the love story of an HIV positive couple. As the documentary had its India premiere at the 20th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, the makers said they wanted to explore the universal condition of all HIV patients through an Indian story.
The story of “Lovesick” revolves around the journey of Suniti Solomon, a doctor who started working with HIV-affected sex workers and slowly realised how people from different walks of life who are suffering from the disease live a miserable life of a loner as they cannot get married due to their condition.
Therefore, the Chennai-based doctor decided to start a matchmaking service for AIDS patients so that at least they can live happily with a life partner.
On what intrigued them to make the film, Kim told IANS here: “Two very important elements for a documentary film is character and access to the story. Dr Suniti Solomon has a wonderful personality and she was very open to life. So when we got to know the story, we wanted to explore the world of HIV Positive patients differently.”
“Yes, we intended to discover that world but we looked for something very universal that will not only be limited to Indian audience but globally, with its relatability,” added Desai.
The filmmakers shot Solomon’s journey for eight years and found her story from her son, who is Desai’s friend.
Set in southern India, the documentary’s narration juxtaposes the traditional rules of arranged marriage that focuses on social status and astrology, different from what Solomon believed is important — medical history to be sure that none of the potential bride and groom is HIV positive.
Was that a conscious decision?
Kim said: “When we were waiting to interact with some HIV positive patients, we were just observing people and having a quick chat with them. We were trying to explore their idea and thought on marriage — why is it so important for an Indian society to get married and what are the rules that they follow, because back in the US, we go little easy on these rules.”
“When we asked a few question on marriage to a majority of orthodox people, those are the natural reactions we have got,” she added.
The story ends as a love story between two AIDS patients — Manu and Kathik, courtesy Solomon who was instrumental in their match-making.
Whether they believe in them or not, the fact is Manu and Karthik felt the pressure of following those rules.
“Though it was not our agenda to take the reference of those 12 rules and position them opposite the viewpoint of Dr Solomon, we attempted to utilise these elements to structure our narration.”
“You know handling HIV positive is no big deal, handling the social stigma that is attached with it is difficult for patients”, said Desai, who was born in a South Indian Brahmin family but brought up in California.
The film has been nominated under the ‘Discovering India’ category at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, and it is the only documentary film in the nominees, which include feature films like “Rajma Chawal”, “Chippa” and “Namdev Bhau”.
Filming the heart-warming documentary was a sweet-bitter experience for the director duo, Desai made an interesting point about their on-field experience.
“In Chennai, when I was interacting with the locals, they would not open up easily, maybe because I am an Indian coming from the US. But whenever Kim was talking, since she is a foreigner, people would voluntarily talk about our culture without any hesitation. I would say her presence in our crew worked in our favour to set the story close to reality,” shared Desai.
Kim is a Korean brought up in the US. Asked if she discovered anything new about India during the filming of “Lovesick”, Kim said: “After my college, I actually came to India and travelled mostly in the northern side. This time when we were filming, I explored the southern part.
“Maybe I liked south Indian food a little more than north Indian food, which is spicy,” she quipped.
While Kim did not find India very exotic and unfamiliar, she said: “There is a certain similarity we find in the Asian society. Our family and social cultures are somewhere similar and that is why I did not feel out of place.”