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Friday, September 11, 2015

Kolkata doctors shoot film to bust surrogacy myths

These five doctors were friends at the Calcutta Medical College who bonded not only through class lectures and practicals in the anatomy laboratory, but also on stage professionally. But now, they have decided to graduate beyond the stage on to the silver screen. This time they have come together to film a story that revolves around surrogacy. Shunyo E Kol, awaits the censor board nod and will immediately release thereafter.

These doctors are regular faces at Matiya Natyam - a theatre group that originated as an in-house initiative of Calcutta Medical College boys and girls many years ago but has now moved beyond the College Street boundaries to theatre houses in the city. They will be staging the much awaited Ekalavya this week, which after the success of their earlier plays, Ekaki Manush and Ei To Jibon, both staged at the Academy of Fine Arts and Madhusudan Mancha, has been able to generate a lot of interest.

In the film the doctors have tried to highlight a trend that they felt was gradually becoming a part of the health reality of women in the city. In the course of their professional lives, each of them has come across patients, colleagues, friends and relatives who have gone for assisted conception and surrogacy for want of a child. "So we decided to weave all these experiences into a story that will capture the different sides to surrogacy. While on the one hand there are those patients who are unable to conceive or carry the foetus due to medical conditions, there are others who cannot take time off for pregnancy because of the pressure of their profession, but yet crave a child. Both categories are opting for surrogate mothers to carry the foetus born from the egg and sperm of the two biological partners," explained Rajesh Das, a doctor in the team.

The doctors have collated their real life experiences to coin a single story that has been written by Bhaswati Roy, who teaches history at Surendranath College and is also a writer of Bengali fiction. "Right from how speciality clinics have a panel of healthy surrogate mothers to choose from, to the charges and contracts involved, the emotional issues of separation with the foetus and finally whether a child that an otherwise professionally busy woman gets through surrogacy, is ultimately cared for," explained Chiranjit Bal, a doctor at the Calcutta Medical College. The other doctors in the team are, Suddhasatwa Chatterjee of Apollo, Soma Dutta a gynaec at the Baharampur Medical College and Saswata Banerjee of Nestle India.

Among the real life women whose lives have inspired the film is a freelance anesthetist, Sangita Banerjee (name changed) who is attached to several leading doctors in the city and earns approximately Rs 20,000 a day (Rs 4000 per case she attends to and she takes at least five to six cases a day). "If I take six months off for the pre and post natal care, my clients will get attached to other anesthetists because operations have to go on. I will never be able to get back where I belong, simply because I am a freelance. So I opted for a surrogate mother, though it is an expensive proposition," Banerjee said.

Pritha Sarkhel (name changed), a 24 year old mother of a three year old boy from Choto Jagulia in Barasat, has been empanelled with a clinic on Theatre Road for surrogacy. "The society treats us as prostitutes. As women who lend wombs to carry other men's babies, but since the money is good, I have opted for it through an agent," she said.

Gynaecologist Gautam Khastagir agrees. "Though I tend to differ with doctors about whether surrogacy is such an urgent option, I do believe that surrogate mothers deserve a respectable status than what the society is prepared to give them. Films like these will help to spread awareness at different levels," he said. Filmmaker Anindita Sarbadhicari who created history by opting to choose a partner later but go for pregnancy and motherhood using assisted conception finds the idea extremely interesting. "I am glad that these doctors have decided to make this film! Every bit of information helps to remove the cobwebs of doubts in the collective psyche of a city that still dithers when it comes to IVF and surrogacy!"


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