Roman Catholic Church with Bollywood makes film on AIDS

At first glance the movie seems like just another Bollywood film: It has the disco-beat songs, the hip-swiveling dance number and the hero and heroine cavorting in the rain in drenched revealing clothes. But "Aisa Kyon Hota Hai?" or "Why Does This Happen?" is a unique first. The newly released feature film, which centers around the twin themes of safe sex and inter-religious harmony, was produced by the Roman Catholic Church in India .

The Rev. Dominic Emmanuel, the film's scriptwriter and the spokesman for the New Delhi archdiocese, agreed that it's not the church's normal way of entertaining its flock. "It is all about using a medium, in this case film, which is not only the most popular in India, but also available to people across the country," Emmanuel said.

Increasingly concerned about changing values in Indian society, especially among young people, the Roman Catholic Church is hoping to reinforce the message that long-term relationships and commitment can curb the spread of HIV. "We did not want to sound preachy. A whole film on HIV would be too boring. At the same time we wanted to hold the attention of the audience," said Emmanuel, who first thought about doing a television show, but ended up deciding a movie would be more effective.

With 5.13 million cases, India ranks second only to South Africa in terms of the number of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. People infected with the virus face any number of prejudices, from difficulty getting into schools to hospitals refusing to treat them.

The Hindi-language film, made on a comparatively low budget of 20 million rupees (US$450,000; Ђ 375,000), opened in New Delhi cinemas in late February and has seen a "fairly good response," Emmanuel said. It was funded in part by UNICEF and Christian aid groups such as Catholic Relief Services.

In the movie, leading actress Rati Agnihotri plays a single mother whose son is played by model-turned-Bollywood star Aryan Vaid. Vaid is a star in sports and school, but has scant respect for women. He flits through relationships, contracts HIV, and ends up infecting one of his girlfriends. The movie traces his battles as he fights stigma and discrimination.

The movie also has a running theme about religious harmony, particularly between Hindus and Muslims. The last few years have seen an upswing in religious intolerance in India , with frequent clashes between Hindus and Muslims. Christians and churches across India also have come under attack from Hindu zealots. India 's 1 billion population is overwhelmingly Hindu, with a large Muslim minority. It is just 2.3 percent Christian, reports the AP.

N.U.

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