“Through ‘Ayushmaan’ I wanted to address the social stigma and discrimination associated with HIV patients”: Director Jacob Varghese. “Ayushmaan is a stirring take on the journey of two 14 year old HIV positive under privileged boys from rural India, who takes up a liking towards running marathons to steer through all the social stigma and discrimination that exists in the society against HIV patients and there by spread positive change and hope around them”, said Director of the film Jacob Varghese.
Sharing about the inspiration behind making the documentary the director said, “ the boys and their sheer motivation to never give up in life has in turn motivated and inspired me as well. They stopped complaining about the agony they are in, instead took up a challenge and won hearts.”
Throwing light on the journey which took almost 6 years to finish, Jacob Varghese said he came across the boys, Babu and Manik, who were 12 years old then at an orphanage designated for HIV positive children. “One among them was abandoned at birth and other was fighting to overcome his fears in connection with his family and of the future .When I met them, who are born as HIV positive with no fault of theirs, the first thought that struck me was how will they lead their life, how will they survive and how long they will be alive,” he said adding, “We don’t have answers to this questions.”
But to his great surprise these boys had shown great courage and resolve to fight for themselves by doing what they like the most, i.e., running, said the director. According to him, the boys who took baby steps in their pursuit to excel in the larger goal, opted for 10 kilometre running first and later on graduated to doing half marathon, which is of 21 km of distance.
Sharing the nuances of canvassing their journey, Varghese said they started on a small scale. “As we set on sail with the flow, I started growing with them too and their mission took them to 5 continents and 12 countries. I simply followed them and documented their life,” he said.
When asked about the physical health of the boys which plays a critical role in their goal, the director has this to say: “Taking up sports acted as medium in building confidence and stamina for them. But above all it is acting as a catalyst in helping them to overcome the stigmas associated with the disease. It is also helping them in a very positive way in terms of right nutrition and work out as well. ”
Asserting that the psychological aspects of the stigma causes far larger consequences than the physical ones posed by the disease, Varghese said the psychological side is highly demanding since they are growing with the fact that their families have abandoned them for no fault of theirs.
Specifying how the societal stigma and discrimination associated with the disease is taking away even the little joys of life from them and how misinformation plays an imperative role in doing so, Varghese said there is lack of right information about diseases like HIV, leprosy which raises a wall in front of these people to experience life in its full form and even deprive them of them the rightful things. “
Detailing the transformation of the boys whose story became the greatest journey of hope, Varghese said the boys are a role model for other kids of similar stature in their orphanage and exuded confidence that the boys will keep on running till their last breath as the greatest inspiration to many.
Director Jacob Varghese is an award-winning Indian film director, producer, and writer known for his sensible, commercially successful and high value cinematic entertainment in the Kannada film industry. Varghese who is often inclined towards making movies on subjects that leave a lasting impression on him by touching his heart, said the subject and the personality you are following are the only motivations for him to make such films.
“You can’t even recover the money you have spent on such films and there are no avenues to showcase them as well except festivals,” he asserted and said the story of Babu and Manik is real, so I wanted to give real facts. Thus I made it as a documentary.”
Ayushmaan was screened under Indian Panorama Non-feature category at the 53rd International Film Festival of India in Goa.