Catholic Church set to release Bollywood film with a message

Mumbai, India - A song and dance movie with an

AIDS message is set for release across India after an unlikely collaboration between the country's Roman Catholic Church and the Bollywood film industry.

The film -- seen as the Indian Catholic Church's first foray into the commercial movie world -- was the brainchild of a priest disturbed by the depiction of risk-free extramarital sex on Indian television serials.

Rev Dr Dominic Emmanuel, who has twin roles as executive producer and spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese, New Delhi, said the Church had not previously gone beyond making documentaries in India.

"We thought why not make a film that is a popular medium? It is watched by peasants, workers, doctors, teachers and people from all faiths and classes."

The Hindi-language film, with trademark Bollywood songs, dance and melodrama, includes an HIV-positive character and is titled "Aisa Kyon Hota Hain" (Why does this happen?")

Bollywood heroine Rati Agnihotri plays the lead role of a woman who singlehandedly raises her son after finding her husband cheating on her.

Her son does not believe in love and commitment and the film deals with their relationship after he discovers he is HIV-positive.

The film -- made for 20 million rupees (450,000 dollars) -- will be released across India, a country with the second highest number of people with HIV behind South Africa.

India's health ministry said in May last year that the official number of HIV-positive people in the country was 5.13 million although volunteer health groups said the figure was too low.

"If Coke and Pepsi can market their products by using Bollywood stars, why can't the Church use the medium to get their message across?" said director Ajay Kanchan.