Tata turns to toons to help cancer-hit kids
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
Mumbai: For radiation therapy, it is GI Joe going ballistic with
a laser gun. Chemotherapy has Star Wars, complete with landmines,
rooting for it. And surgery, for 10 minutes, has a Kill-Bill-inspired
heroine—who slays pink C-monsters with a magic sword—championing
Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel is now taking the help of cartoon-speak
and animation to help cancer-hit children overcome their fears of
a treatment that can often be long and painful. And the sugar-coat
here comes in the form of a 10-minute film, Bust That Noma, that
packs all the punch of a “video game’’.
The film, made from funds donated by the Terry Fox Foundation (India)
and completed after a year of consultation with 40 children and
numerous paeditricians and psychologists, bagged the Best Film Award
in the animation films for public awareness category at FRAMES 2005
last week. But, for the hospital, a bigger award is the smile on
the long face of a cancer-stricken youngster.
“We realised that children are under a lot of stress when they go
in for therapy, especially the first time. They have to be anaesthesised
to help them get over their fright during radiation,’’ TMH counsellor
Nina Bhatnagar, who was associated with the film’s making, said.
Besides, the six-week radiation course—given in an antiseptic room
devoid of anything except a giant machine that sends out gamma radiation—does
not exactly work overtime to put cancer’s little victims at ease.
It is here that the film steps in. Using mnemonics, it begins with
three children—Bindoo, Tingoo and Guru—who are diagnosed with various
forms of cancer (or ‘noma’). A giant tablet —signifying cancer-busting
medicines—then takes charge, leading them to TMH, holding their
hand and speaking encourgaing words throughout the treatment. The
moment they reach the treatment area, their alter-egos take over,
metamorphosing into warriors ready to fight cancer.
The idea to make such a film came up in February 2004. Rakesh Jalali,
treating brain tumours among children at TMH, felt it would make
the idea of treatment—accompanied by the usual sideeffects of hairfall
and fatigue—more acceptable to children. “Our idea was to inculcate
coping skills and to increase their willingness to fight the disease,’’
Bhatnagar said, explaining the logic behind the title.
The film has been shown to only a few children till date but the
response from the target audience has been fantastic. “They (the
children) left the show singing the theme song,’’ Jalali recounted.
And a Canadian delegation has asked for DVDs after a special screening
on Monday. “They want to dub it for use in their hospitals,’’ Jalali
Terry Fox Connection
In 1977, a 18-year-old Canadian, Terry Fox, discovered that he was
suffereing from bone cancer and needed to have his right leg amputated.
With one leg, he took on a cross-country walk to spread awareness
about the need for research in cancer. He died midway, but not before
collecting millions for research.
In Mumbai, the local Terry Fox Foundation holds walks in Feb every
year and donates the money collected to TMH. “This year, we generated
Rs 21 lakh,’’ said Gul Kriplani of the foundation. IA decided to
top this sum by giving 200 tickets for 100 cancer-hit children.
TMH director Dr Katie Dinshaw said that her hospital had in the
past seven years got Rs 70 lakh from the Terry Fox Foundation.
The money has been used for three projects—to develop an affordable
prosthesis, a research project on kids affected by brain tumour
and to make the award-winning animation film.