Saving Chintu is a film that has always drawn my interest ever since I read about its making. Therefore, I availed the opportunity to watch it while it was screened online as a part of the New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) 2020.
Directed by Tushar Tyagi, who is also the co-producer along with Ritika Jayaswal the short film promotes inclusivity and addresses the challenges faced by the LGBTQ community. In a parallel stream, it also throws light on complex issues faced by society such as child adoption and HIV.
The story in short
Sam (Sachin Bhatt) and Oliver (Edward Sonnenblick)) are a gay couple who travel all the way from the United States to India to adopt Chintu (Arihant Angad Nayak). The little boy is infected with HIV and lives in an orphanage. However, there are bumps on the road as India’s adoption rules do not favor same sex couples, and that stands as a deterrent to complicate the situation. Sam seeks the help of his close friend Meera (Dipannita Sharma) to cross the hurdle. This leads to a misunderstanding with Oliver who feels left out. Simultaneously, we are introduced to Dr. Sanjay (Adil Hussain) and his wife Asha (Priyanka Setia) who consider adoption to make their family complete.
Will Sam and Oliver be able to overcome the obstacles they face? Will Chintu be saved and get a loving home to experience the bliss of parental love? That’s the answer we look for in the film.
The characters bring the film alive
The challenge for a work in the short film category lies as to how powerfully it can convey its message within a limited time frame. In spite of being built on a strong plot, it may fail to reach a level of excellence without its cast delivering their utmost best. Saving Chintu does not falter on this ground.
Sachin Bhatt and Edward Sonnenblick, as the gay couple Sam and Oliver, are convincing, and they do justice to their parts. Their initial excitement in flying to India to adopt Chintu and the tension that arises between them when Oliver feels he has been sidelined feel very natural with their compelling portrayals.
The immensely versatile Adil Hussain as Dr. Sanjay gives us yet another spectacular performance, which of course does not come as a surprise. Be it in the health camp where he is the dedicated doctor or his moment as a loving husband discussing adoption with his wife at the dinner table, he delivers all of his parts with equal finesse. His compassion looms large when he gives up his seat to a woman on the bus and strikes a warm conversation with the daughter of one of his patients. These incidents come across as so real that they do not seem like scenes on celluloid.
Dipannita Sharma as Meera emerges in a role very different from the glamorous persona she portrayed in earlier films like Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl and the more recent War. Clad in crisp, cotton sarees and with the bindi on her forehead, she looks endearingly beautiful. She emotes effortlessly, especially in the scenes in which she displays the fear of being caught lying. The actor gives her very best, and as she shared in a post, it was fulfilling for her to play the role of Meera in a film that she calls “a gem”.
Siddharth Bhardwaj as the shrewd adoption agent with comic lines seems authentic, and Priyanka Setia as Dr. Sanjay’s wife is admirable. Child actor Arihant Angad Nayak as Chintu simply acts with his physical presence, and this is in sync with the plot dynamics that do not require him to contribute anything more.
The film succeeds in addressing a myriad of issues
Parenthood, adoption, LGBTQ, HIV, and cultural barriers are the issues that Saving Chintu seeks to explore, and the film does so through a story intelligently scripted by Sanyam Kumar and Corey Wright. The film does not moralize, but the themes of love and acceptance are subtly embedded in its core and organically flow throughout the narrative.
Tushar Tyagi deserves a big round of applause for maneuvering the plot with skillful dexterity and not loosening his grip. In an interview on the making of the film, he voiced his concern about how misinformed most people are with regard to the difference between HIV and AIDS. The director talked about his intent to clear the stigma surrounding HIV, and to quote him, he has tried to “make a film on a very emotional level, on a very intellectual and very deep level”.
As the film nears its end, you will perhaps be wondering what conclusion it plans to arrive at and what message it seeks to convey. It is the final scene that winds it up beautifully, giving the answers that one might be looking for, and it certainly does so with a pleasant surprise that warms the heart!
(This article was featured in Women’s Web )