Natasha de Rosayro
Internationally acclaimed actress and producer Nita Fernando’s “Swara” (Seven Notes) is re-released in local cinemas in Colombo on 1 December 2023, coinciding with World AIDS Day 2023.
The film’s narrative is woven around the character of Narmada, an internationally celebrated, professional music composer and conductor. Her life takes a different turn after a blood test reveals she is HIV positive. Narmada’s life is a success story from every conceivable perspective, but soon, her whole world starts to crumble. Her decision to reveal her HIV status publicly puts in motion a chain of events that forces her out of her home and threatens to not only end her career but also impacts the life of her daughter and grandchild. She finds community in people from very different backgrounds to her own, but facing the same hardships as a result of their shared HIV status. Narmada chooses to fight back for herself and others like her; battling the stigma and discrimination that surrounds HIV.
The narrative effectively deals with a myriad of socio-economic issues through carefully crafted characters and situations. The hardship of women caught in cycles of poverty and the particular vulnerability of gender diverse or questioning persons are tactfully handled in the script by (late) Yolanda Weerasinghe.
Directed by Sanjaya Nirmal and initially released in 2012, Swara hit the screen again after a hiatus of 12 years. At the time of its release then, the film gained high acclaim at international film festivals but wasn’t released to the local circuit due to various setbacks.
At its core, the film bears witness to the hardships that some courageous people had to battle not too long ago as they faced prejudice, ostracization, violence and various other rejections and harm when they revealed their status or were ‘exposed’ unwillingly. Recent years have seen many technological advances in the battle to end the spread of HIV such as Antiretroviral therapy (ART) – a combination of medicines, that over time and with effective adherence, suppresses HIV replication in the body to undetectable levels; thereby stopping the negative impact on the immune system and supporting the health of persons living with HIV. With proper adherence ART also stops the transmission of HIV to others by lowering the number of HIV copies to undetectable levels. This has offered a new frontier in HIV prevention or ‘Treatment as prevention’. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) another advancement that protects against HIV when taken as prescribed before exposure to HIV. While times have changed, the fight to inform the public of how to stay HIV-negative and end the spread and create a caring and enabling environment for people living with HIV goes on.
Since 2013, the National HIV Prevention Programme has worked tirelessly with key populations to end HIV as a public health threat in Sri Lanka. Thanks to the Sri Lanka Government’s funding commitment and Global Fund’s support, the leadership of the National STD/AIDs Control Programme (NSACP), The Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka (FPA) and all Community Based Organisations, marginalized populations that are more vulnerable to HIV receive HIV prevention services without bias or prejudice.
Screenings of the film in Colombo are supported through SKPA-2.
Swara was produced in collaboration with the NSACP and FPA Sri Lanka, the Embassy of Netherlands, Sri Lanka Telecom, Standard Chartered Bank and many other partner organisations.
Published on: 14-Dec-2023