My very first visit to the gynaecologist was not a pleasant one. I came out terrified and with the knowledge of an affliction I knew nothing about - PCOS, the doctor had said to me, was so common that 1 in 5 women suffered from it. And yet, thought my 15-year-old brain, I’d never heard anyone even mention it.
Which is why when I came across a student film that delved into the reality of PCOS, a lifestyle disorder with no cure, through various narratives, I sighed with much relief. Titled ‘Bad Blood - A Documentary on PCOS’, this 20-minute film emerged out of the need to understand and speak up about the ugly side of PCOS which most Indians would rather sweep under their rugs. A product of months of toiling, in-depth research, and long hours spent on the gruelling edit table, Bad Blood was conceived after Abhipsha Mahapatro (one of the four team members who worked on the film) was diagnosed with PCOS only two weeks before her team was supposed to submit the topic for their documentary. Other team members include Malaika Sujeet, Gunjan Lahoti, and Nikhita Gowra.
“With this film, we have explored personal stories of women afflicted with this disorder, some who’ve had it for up to 14 years. We wanted to ensure that everyone understood that this was not just ‘PMS’ and something to be dismissed; it’s a legitimate lifestyle disorder that affects almost 1 in 5 women and that’s a huge part of our population! Women suffering from it might not even know what is happening to them while men in our culture tend to run away from all things menstruation-related,” said Abhipsha in an interview with Menstrupedia, an online community that is working towards increasing the awareness around all things menstruation in India.
From explaining the technicalities of PCOS in a very simplified manner to recognising the stressful environments we live in today, the documentary is path-breaking in how sensitively it deals with the topic at hand. Taking us through the stories of multiple women who have, at some point, had to deal with not just irregular and erratic periods, but other physical and mental symptoms of PCOS like unusual body hair growth, gaining weight, acne problems, mental illnesses etc. The general lack of awareness and the taboo surrounding PCOS in the country is another theme that runs through the 20-minute duration of the film.
“Initially, it was quite difficult to get people to talk about it. Even if they agreed, the fact that it was being recorded made them conscious about what they said. After talking to almost 7 to 10 girls, only 4 of them agreed to speak on camera and share what PCOS was for them and how it affected them mentally and physically, which is something everyone has to understand in our society,” shares Abhipsha.
Starting dialogue on PCOS in a country that’s reluctant to discuss menstruation and female hygiene is an uphill battle; and having to challenge patriarchal standards of feminine beauty while paying through the nose for expensive healthcare is an added burden. India’s PCOS problem has many faces – 1 in 3 to be precise – but the level of discourse on it is disproportionate. At the end of the day, Bad Blood isn’t as comprehensive an analysis of the problem. But it is a start. One that’s paving way for more such conversations to happen in the future.
Feature Image Credit: origin.circa.com
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