Realising the AIDS risk

SOS: AIDS Playwright Kamala Ramchandani Director Madhulika Varma

Published: Friday 15 September 1995

SOS: AIDs, a play being staged in Bombay by Spotlight, a group of concerned theatre professionals, gets across the " .. message: AIDS IS not Just a disease that happens to someone else. It can happen to you. And as there is no cure, it is pretty obvious that vigilance and prevention are the only way that we can deal with the disease."

And to do this, play- wright Kamala Ramchandani and director Madhulika Varma ensure that the char- acters and the situations they find themselves in are unnerviney familiar. Jai Desai, a successful heterosexual male executive, discovers accidently that he has been infected with the lethal AIDs-causing Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). A one-night drunken alliance in Delhi turns out to be his undoing. His blood is undoubtedly infected and the virus soon infects his entire life and those of his family members. Shocked, betrayed and plain scared, his wife, son and daughter pull in different directions offering Desai little comfort or support. From a popular business executive, he suddenly finds himself alone and isolated -a pariah in a world of healthy 'moral' peo- pie, incarcerated in a hospital with other AIDS patients.

But it is these people, who he would have shunned in his earlier life, whose company he is forced to seek to come to terms with his fate and face the inevitable future with strength -Gautam, an HIV infected homosexual who has seen a friend strug- gle with the disease and eventually die, and Ayesha, a young drug addict.

Comprising 27 fast-moving scenes, interspersed with live singing, the play is well- enacted and tightly directed. It not only challenges commonlly held notions about people towards the different, the weak and the sick are exposed.

Spotlight, which is dedicated to raising social concerns through theatre, plans to take the play to various cities iri the country. It hopes to do shows in schools and colleges as well. Already, the Navy has had the group perform for them. Varma and Ramchandani say that they are more than will- ing to put on the show on a no-profit no-loss basis for institutions that might be interested. Any profits they make from their public performances they plan to donate to the Bombay-based Indian Health Organisation and other groups working with AIDS patients and AIDS awareness.

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