Surrogacy and celluloid

Published: Dec 07, 2011, 06:56 IST | Subhash K Jha |

Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao's baby boy through surrogacy has brought the procedure into public focus. A look at how Bollywood tackled surrogacy

Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao's baby boy through surrogacy has brought the procedure into public focus. A look at how Bollywood tackled surrogacy

Adoption and surrogate motherhood have been a part of Indian cinema and Bollywood for as long as we can remember. Off late, there has been a spate of adoptions in the industry.

Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao

Besides Sushmita Sen who adopted a second girl-child, there are directors like Nikhil Advani, Dibakar Bannerjee and Kunal Kohli who have brought home a nanhi pari and are in a state of blessed bliss ever since.
Aamir's decorous declaration of his surrogate parenthood has imbued an all-new dimension to the concept of non-traditional motherhood.

A friend of the couple said on condition of anonymity, "None of us knew about this beautiful development in Aamir and Kiran's life.

The grace and joy with which he has shared the news with everyone is something only Aamir can manage. And by adopting surrogacy he has actually given legitimacy to an unconventional route to pregnancy."

One hears Aamir and Kiran intend to celebrate the new arrival in their family. At the moment, the film industry is still absorbing the gravity of the announcement, trying to come to terms with it.

(From left) Tabu, Sanjay Suri, Sushmita Sen and Palash Sen in Filhaal

One top leading man was honest enough to admit sheepishly, "Mujhe to yeh bhi nahin maloom surrogacy kya hota hai.

(I do not know what is surrogacy). Thanks to Aamir, I found out. But I still don't understand what it entails." The best comment came from a producer who said wryly, "Trust Aamir to push the envelope when it comes to production of any kind."

Ignorance on the subject of surrogacy comes as a surprise. Bollywood and surrogacy have shared a long kinship. Way back in 1983 the underrated director Lekh Tandon made Doosri Dulhan.

This was a film about a childless couple played by Victor Bannerjee and Sharmila Tagore who bring home a prostitute played with blizzard like bravura by Shabana Azmi, to bear them a child.
The film claimed its origins in a play by Anil Barve. Shabana Azmi who played the surrogate mother in Doosri Dulhan, says, "The movie was made in 1982 way ahead of its time. I did a lot of research on the character who was picked up from Kamathipura, but didn't do research on surrogacy.

A still from the movie Chori Chori Chupke Chupke

It wasn't common in those days. Surrogacy is a difficult choice to make for all three people involved. The demands can be emotionally draining. However if it provides solace to the involved parties so be it." But if we dig deeper the idea of a couple 'hiring' a womb goes back to a very old American film The Baby Maker.
Released in 1970, The Baby Maker directed by James Bridges told the story of a hippie girl (Barbara Hershey) who agrees to have a baby for a childless couple. The film was largely panned for being too audacious and unrealistic. But unconventional means of motherhood are now no more considered laughable.

Filmmaker Onir who made a sensitive film I Am Afia on sperm donation researched extensively on the subject of surrogate motherhood.

Says Onir, "Surrogacy is science's gift to humanity. A wonderful possibility for parents who cannot have a baby because of complications. They can bear children that another woman can harbour and nurture, thereby making parenthood possible to many who otherwise might not have been able to experience it."
During the course of his research Onir discovered many irregularities in the clinics that deal with alternative parenthood.

Says Onir, "Information on sperm donation and the identity of the surrogate mother are supposed to be unconditionally confidential. Yet, doctors give these away. In my film there was a doctor played by director Anurag Basu who squeals on the identity of a sperm donor."

Shoojit Sircar who's making a film on sperm donation named Vicky Donor feels surrogate parenthood in our country has a long way to go. Says Sircar, "It's complicated. It's another process whereby a childless couple can find happiness.
But the laws and the loopholes don't make it easy for a couple seeking surrogacy." The understanding and interpretation of surrogacy in our cinema is still limited to a love triangle like Abbas-Mustan's Chori Chori Chupke Chupke where Salman Khan played the scion of wealthy family.
When wife Rani Mukherjee couldn't bear a child, the couple brought   streetwalker (Preity Zinta) home to do the needful. Interestingly enough, the film was directed by Abbas-Mustan who have made a career out of suspense-action thrillers. The film was considered an unofficial remake of Lekh Tandon's Doosri Dulhan.

Speaking of Doosri Dulhan when this writer asked the film's principal actor what he thought of surrogacy and Aamir adopting it, Victor Bannerjee reacted with righteous indignation.
"Please leave people alone to live and act as they wish. Intrusion into the private lives of others is tasteless and vulgar. Comparisons with cheap movies is abominable."

Filhaal is a Bollywood film released in 2001. The film stars Sushmita Sen, Tabu, Sanjay Suri and Palash Sen in the lead roles. Meghna Gulzar, daughter of actress Raakhee Gulzar made her directorial debut with the film. Rewa Singh (Tabu) and Sia Sheth (Sushmita Sen) are best friends.
Rewa meets the love of her life, Dhruv Malhotra (Sanjay Suri) and marries him. They are overjoyed when they find out that Rewa is pregnant. But their joy is short lived when Rewa suffers a miscarriage and due to complications is unable to have a child.
Rewa is devastated but tries to carry on with life with the support of Dhruv and Sia. However feeling incomplete and empty she slowly sinks into depression. Sia, who cannot stand to see her friend like this becomes a surrogate mother to their child.

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