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South Asian Sisters Bring Mental Illness Out of Closet

Washington: Two South Asian Muslim sisters have chosen to bring the taboo subject of mental illness out of the closet in their first feature film with a universal message: //"Acceptance, not rejection, helps in difficult situations."

"Hiding Divya", written and directed by Rehana Mirza, produced by Rohi Mirza Pandya, and starring Madhur Jaffrey, Pooja Kumar and Deep Katdare, will debut at international film festivals this year.

Earlier in 2006, the only Muslim sister filmmakers won an award from NBC Universal for their short film "Modern Day Arranged Marriage".

In "Hiding Divya", her first feature film as both writer and director, Rehana Mirza wanted to tackle a very layered and complex story with emotional depth, yet with some quiet humour.

"Having three very strong women as protagonists is something I very rarely get to do," Mirza told IANS.

"Hiding Divya is our project from start to finish. It is our first feature and we retained creative control throughout the process. It has high production values," added producer Rohi Mirza Pandya.

Asked how did they choose this particular theme for the film, the Mirza sisters noted: "Early in Rehana's screening writing career, one of Rohi's friends approached her about the problem of mental illness in the South Asian community.

"Her mother suffered from manic depression, constantly showed erratic behaviour, and was ostracised from the community. Then in the spring of 2005, another friend's father put a gun to his head and shot himself. We realized there was an immediate need to tell this story."

The sisters believe that "Hiding Divya" is one of those films that have "the power to change the world". With it Rohi hopes "that people seek help for their illness and that the stigma of mental illness is erased".

"We also hope that the pressure and isolation of family members whose loved ones suffer from mental illness will be eased
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