Filming Neelam’s Story of Mental Health

Six months ago, I had chanced upon a case study that would consume my life for days to come. Neelam’s Story is not just about one individual; it is the voice of thousands. Many thousands who, despairingly, are unknowingly in thirst to receive the mental health help they crucially need – now further amplified by COVID-19.

One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. There are clear stigmas surrounding mental health within the South Asian community and the British Asian Trust has increased awareness to nearly over a quarter of a million individuals to help address this.

I paused, I wept, and my creative nerves were etched. Whilst the pandemic was evolving,

it was important for me to focus my efforts to try and make a difference – as a composer the only catalyst to do this for me was to bring Neelam’s Story alive through art.

Neelam’s Story represents pain, restlessness, hope and search portrayed through the sentiments of an ancient dance form and music within the film. There was no easy way to tell the story.

The process involved months of grit and buckets of determination to bring the project to life and I am delighted that it has caught the attention of thousands already. There are several dozen people to thank – at the receiving end of my unflinching bothering at nearly every hour of the day – to each of you, thank you.

Shree Savani has conveyed the dance with sheer profundity, Sima Gonsai has married the scenes so fluently and Saylee Talwalkar’s powerful vocals catch Neelam’s cry from the sky.

I have breathed Neelam’s Story over the past few months so this musical film can enable us to have difficult conversations about mental health. The British Asian Trust carry out incredible work impacting millions across the world and as a British Asian I am proud to be whole heartedly supporting the British Asian Trust to bring adhesion to their COVID-19 Emergency Appeal.

I was especially pleased that the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, honoured me with a personal letter expressing his whole-hearted support arriving earlier this week from No. 10.

Speaking about the project, the PM said that he is "proud to see that this production, inspired by a British Asian Trust case study, will further lift the silence on mental health. It is important that we have those difficult conversations about mental health in our communities now more than ever and I extend my wholehearted support to all those involved”.

So, it is critical that we act now together than ever before.

By Rekesh Chauhan