'Our system is insensitive towards health challenges of elderly': Director Vishaal Nityaanand

'Life Flows On' is about three persons living with dementia


As the world celebrates Alzheimer's month this September, it would be worth watching a film—Life Flows On—that puts the spotlight on those living with dementia.

Directed by Vishaal Nityaanand, the film was recently screened at the Nehru Centre in Worli in the presence of founder of Alzheimer’s & Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) Mumbai, Dr Vidya Shenoy, Dr Zoya Ali Rizvi, Deputy Commissioner, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Dr Sanjay Bhide, Convenor and Secretary Trans Asian Chamber Commerce & Industry and others.

The story is about three persons living with dementia and is told through multiple narratives—that of father, a mother and a daughter, all of who are living with dementia and are trying to find themselves in a world that simply whizzes by, and fails to understand and empathise with those battling the challenges of dementia and other mental illnesses.

The film, made with an Indian-European cast and crew including Tom Alter, Norwegian actress Astri G, French actor Micheal, German actress Allegra Dun and actors Satyabrat Rawat and Gajendra Verma, released in 2017 for the festival circuit and has gained acclaim across the world at multiple festivals. The aim of the film, says Nityaanand is to create awareness regarding mental illnesses and to sensitise people. "To remember people who can't remember themselves. This is a film dedicated to the global dementia challenge and to elderly care."

"80 per cent of the film was shot in Uttarakhand, is released in association with Carnival Cinemas. The film had its world premiere on World Elderly Day on October 1 at the seventh Jagran Film Festival in Mumbai. The one hour 45 minute film is set for a theatrical release soon.

Talking about the movie, Nityanand said: "I got involved with the issue a few years back when I came across some real stories from different parts of India, of senior citizens suffering from Alzheimer's, shunned by their families. It is not that all families do the same, but our system is so insensitive towards such serious health challenges of elderly, especially in rural India. We have not only largest youth population but the most rapidly growing elderly population... When we will think of concrete policy and infrastructure for healthy aging?" he asks.

"We have got 'U' certificate from Censor Board of India.The film is only released exclusively in selected theatres and screened at some prestigious platforms working for the cause. We would like for as many people to watch it as possible and that is the reason we hope this film is made free for people to watch on various different platforms," said Nityanand in an interview to THE WEEK. 

The film is an apt screening during this month of September on the occasion of World Alzheimer's Day (21st September). Accordingly, Nityanand is championing the 'Digital Elderly Care & Dementia Awareness Campaign in a bid to make the film available to and accessible for a wider audience. Urban youth, potential caregivers, academia, scholars and civil society world-wide make for the film's target audience.

According to the WHO, Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and may contribute to 60–70 per cent of cases. As per medical journals, the estimated dementia prevalence for adults ages 60+ in India is 7.4 per cent. About 8.8 million Indians older than 60 years live with dementia. Dementia is more prevalent among females than males and in rural than urban areas. "The issue must be highlighted and the infrastructure required to make those living with dementia feel safe and secured, must be provided at the earliest," said Nityanand.