The hot and perpetually bristly lead pair of the Singam film franchise – Suriya and Anushka – are back for another battle. But this time around, it isn’t with dons, drug lords or gangsters – they’re going head to head with the HIV virus and how little TN’s school kids know about AIDS. Reunited as animated characters on screen, the actors have lent their voices and ‘animated’ figures along with another unlikely pair – Siddharth and Shruti Hassan —for a campaign helmed by TeachAIDS India Trust.
Launching the Tamil version of their animated AIDS awareness video/tool, the not-for-profit organisations founder Piya Sorcar said that she was ‘delighted’ with all the support that South Indian stars had extended to her project to curb the spread of AIDS. “Knowledge levels in India about HIV were very low. People have always needed a culturally appropriate tool to raise AIDS awareness among children that didn’t make either parents or teachers squeamish,” said Piya Sorcar, who started the organisation in 2005 as part of a project in her days at Stanford University.
Fresh from publicity runs for her Selvaraghavan film Irandaam Ulagam, a glowing Anushka said that she was looking forward to doing a lot more towards HIV awareness, “I don’t do a lot of social service because I didn’t want to commit and will not be able to follow through. I will be with TeachAIDS all through!”
The 33-year-old actress went on to reveal how she grew up with stigma against HIV, “I come from a very conservative family and we never spoke about AIDS or sex education. When I was in college in 2001, AIDS was spoken about like a demon. For some outreach work, I came into touch with two groups with AIDS who had been thrown out of their villages. They cooked food for us and asked us to eat. But I was uncomfortable eating with HIV+ people. I went back home and stopped going there because I wanted to stay away. Things are different now because of the knowledge I have today,” she said. Though several actors have done campaigns for Tamil Nadu AIDS Control Society (TANSACS) promoting safe sex and HIV testing, not many have designed a module to catch them young. “We first started using this animated module in 2009 in Andhra Pradesh, which had the most number of cases in India. Since then we have designed animated videos about HIV in Assamese, Kannada, Oriya and Tamil and stars like Shabana Azmi, Anushka and Suriya have been gracious enough to help us,” said Piya, who is the granddaughter of magician P C Sorcar.
TANSACS Assistant Director Leelakrishnan said that they were thrilled with the quality of the animation done and were looking forward to distributing it to schools and colleges in the State. “We already have 10,000 red ribbon clubs and another 700 are in the pipeline. This interactive tool with popular actors will make a real difference,” he said.