Friday, April 20, 2012
Vicky Donor and sperm donation in India
I attended the premiere of a new film yesterday. The movie is Vicky Donor , produced by John Abraham, which revolves around the topic of sperm donation. When we started India's first sperm bank over 20 years ago , sperm donation was a taboo topic. Very few people were willing to talk about it – and most people were quite aghast at the idea that Indian men would be willing to use donor sperm in order to have babies. We had to spend a lot of time educating people as to the important role donor sperm plays in infertility treatment - and why sperm banks were as important as blood banks. The media was very helpful in transmitting this message; and It's interesting to see how attitudes have evolved with the passage of time.
I don't see too many films and the reason I went for this premier was because we had been invited by the director,
Shoojit Sircar to provide medical inputs , to make sure that the film was medically accurate. I enjoyed talking to his assistant, Tushar, and was very impressed by how clever film makers are. Like any other film , the director has taken artistic licenses with medical facts to make sure that the story flows quickly , but this doesn't really detract from the message of the film.
I enjoyed the film ! It’s very well made ; and while the first half offers lots of laughs, the second becomes quite emotional. Not only does it talk about why sperm donation is needed, it describes the plight of the infertile couple very clearly. It's a touching tale , well told, and provides a much-needed perspective on how men and women look upon the problem so differently.
Both the hero and the heroine are newcomers to the screen ; as is the director , which makes the movie even more remarkable. I particularly enjoyed the way the doctor was played by veteran comedian, Annu Kapoor, who's done a masterly job. The supporting cast provided such excellent performances that for a moment you even forgot that they were acting. The story has been very well-crafted by Juhi Chaturvedi.
Do I have any criticisms ? These are minor and relate to a few medical inaccuracies which have crept in ( for example, placing the semen container into a thermos which contains liquid nitrogen to chill it – something which would kill the sperm in real life with a cold shock) . However , I feel the director is at liberty to take these , because they make the movie more interesting.
One of the reasons I really enjoyed the film is because I have great regards for someone who can use entertainment to educate. Bollywood carries a lot of clout in Indian society , and using this to educate people about serious topics is a challenging task . Infertility is always been a taboo topic , and this movie has very courageously chosen to tackle this head on. They have chosen not to make it too serious , because very few people would watch a tear-jerker. They have very successfully blended the need to keep an eye on the box office , with the motive need to provide a socially meaningful message. Just like impact investing is challenging because it needs to meet two goals at one time – both providing investors with an attractive return on investment , along with helping entrepreneurs to provide socially useful services, this movie too tries to provide the combine the best of two worlds – entertaining viewers while educating them; and making money for the producers as well. While I'm not a movie buff , and cannot predict how well the movie will actually do it the box office , it's been produced inexpensively and it is my prediction that it will perform well. It will be great that along with providing a box office index to judge the impact of a movie, critics would start judging the social impact of films as well. Taare Zameen Par was a path breaker, because it did such a great job with spreading awareness about dyslexia in India.
Film-makers carry a lot of clout; and I do hope Eros films will use Vicky Donor as a catalyst to provide an ongoing platform around which infertile couples can continue discussions about infertility. The problem with any film is that it has a very short shelf life, and that once it's been seen , people forget about it. However, thanks to the internet it's possible to continue engaging infertile couples , so that the discussion does not die away. Eros films released trailers of the films on YouTube , in order to promote the film , and these have become extremely popular. We have been flooded with emails from prospective donors from all across the country in the last few days ! I do hope they will capitalize on this , so that they can show that not only do movie makers make money and entertain people, they can also help to mold social attitudes.
Ironically , with the recent advances in reproductive technology , the need for sperm donation has progressively reduced, because thanks to ICSI, it's now possible for even men with zero sperm counts to have babies , so that not many men need sperm donation anymore. However, the need for egg donation has progressively increased , as women choose to postpone childbearing , and hopefully we will see a movie about egg donation – Juhi Donor - in the next few years !