Fooling around with patients can help them heal
Exploring the role arts and science can play together to create spaces of innovation in our healthcare systems, Diya Banerjee decided to make The Hope Doctors, a documentary which talks of clowning as a strategy to create positive spaces in hospital environments that sees sickness and death.
Explaining the idea behind the film, Banerjee tells Metrolife that she met Bhatt, who does a lot of work in clowning as an artist, during an arts management course. Soon she started observing his work, such as his troupe working with Can Support, a cancer-support unit in New Delhi, and found that this was indeed a powerful intervention tool that the our healthcare systems could explore.
“When Ashwath transformed into a clown and started interacting with the children – who were in various stages of their cancer treatment – something magical happened. These kids forgot that they are in pain. They laughed, played and through Ashwath’s little games found a release. The distressed parents too found strength and hope. Especially, the technique of clowning works as a splendid distraction strategy for kids. They are restless and find it very hard to comply with the long-drawn treatment and procedures,”
Further, when she was filming Fif and Hamish – a clown pair – she found even adult patients responded to them. “This means that we basically need to change the way we treat people clinically. It is really a behavioural change we are talking about here, which is not so easy,” she says, adding that it was then she decidedto make a documentary on this subject.
Banerjee, who works as a communication professional, says the film is about reviving the human touch in our healthcare systems through the arts.
“It talks of clowning as a strategy to create positive spaces in hospital environments. It demonstrates that laughter and distraction can help patients recover quickly,” she shares.
Spelling out the concept of medical clowning, Banerjee says that in India, most people haven’t heard of it and those who have don’t know what it is with the common perception being that it’s just gimmickry.
“It is not gimmickry – it is a profession in some countries where highly skilled artists or people with the correct skill and sensitivity are trained in psychology and hospital situations. They are then employed as staff-appointed professionals who work with doctors and nurses on patients who need psychosocial counselling, care and attention. In fact, clowning is being used in war-torn countries at refugee campsites to handle cases of trauma, distress, depression and suicide,” she tells Metrolife.
Shot in Delhi, Pondicherry, Chennai and Auroville including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi and the Aravind Eye Hospital in Pondicherry, the film had to battle its share of challenges.
“The challenge was to first sensitise people what we want to film and why we want to do it. And then get AIIMS on board too. We had to work hard to change initial reservations on hospital clowning – is it safe? Is it stupid? Is it irrelevant? Many who couldn’t gauge what the film is talking about posed the biggest hindrances. But I think we persevered and all our hearts were really into it. So we finally made it!” she told Deccan Herald.
Completed in 2014 with support of Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT), the film will be screened in Delhi on September 19 at PSBT’s Open Frame Film Festival.
“I really hope the medical fraternity sits up and takes notice of the possibility to get medical clowning started in Indian hospitals. It may be an avant-grade approach for India, but, I am just trying to say – this works!” she concludes.EOM