Aisha Chaudhary found consolation in words and art, expressing her deepest feelings and ambitions via painting and poetry. Her world shrank as her illness and difficulties took up the majority of the available space. Nilesh Maniyar’s heartbreaking documentary “Black Sunshine Baby” weaves a narrative full of spectacular highs and desolate lows with narration and anecdotes from Aisha’s parents, Niren and Aditi, and her elder brother, Ishaan.
“Black Sunshine Baby” includes a wide range of Aisha’s greatest work, from her vibrant paintings to her poems, which need depth and sensitivity to truly understand the essence.
While it also provides archive video of Aisha’s lowest moments, we are left wondering why the Chaudhary family would capture their precious daughter in pain. Aisha is shown coughing and laying in bed, surrounded by tubes and equipment in the footage. Despite this, she bears her anguish with a grin on her face. It makes us wonder why they chose to document her anguish.
This brings us to “The Sky is Pink,” another feature film on Aisha’s lengthy and grueling trials. The film, which stars Priyanka Chopra and Farhan Akhtar in the main roles, follows the Chaudhary family from their first daughter Tanya until the death of their beloved daughter Aisha. While Niren and Aditi’s tale is central to “The Sky is Pink,” there is a shift in the narrative in this documentary. Aisha takes center stage (both physically and metaphorically) to shine as the documentary’s genuine heroine. This refers to the key footage in the documentary, which depicts Aisha on stage during INK lectures addressing happiness.
She is the black sunshine baby in every respect, as she manages to discover or even produce a dazzling ray of light in the deepest of caverns. As Aditi reassures Ishaan in “The Sky is Pink” that his sky can be any color he wishes, the documentary underlines Aisha’s ability to shine in every scenario, no matter how gloomy the night. Furthermore, while the film depicts Aisha as an exuberant character, the documentary introduces us to a shy and introverted Aisha. The fundamental reasons, as shown later, are bullying and unkindness on the part of her peers.
“Black Sunshine Baby” succeeds in tracing Aisha’s life from her early years, when Aditi used to live with her in the UK by herself, away from Niren and Ishaan. The Chaudhary family has gone through a lot just to keep their beloved kid alive. Aisha never had a normal childhood because of severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). Her body was incapable of fighting foreign viruses and germs, thus she needed to be protected against sickness. The documentary intersperses the stories of Aisha and Tanya, the latter being Niren and Aditi’s first daughter. Because both parents have a recessive gene, their daughters have SCID. While Tanya succumbed to the sickness early in life, Aisha fought for her life to survive another day.
The wonderful people of the UK who gave all they could to save Aisha’s life deserve a lot of gratitude. Niren and Aditi acknowledge this in the documentary, and we shall be eternally thankful for their help. Doctors and staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital worked feverishly to find a cure for Aisha. They carried out a STEM cell transplant with chemotherapy for the very first time in Europe. The procedure proved to be a game changer in the world of medicine and in Aisha’s life. The image of a little newborn tangled in tubes breaks your heart. The narrative, however, does not finish here. In reality, this is simply the beginning of her difficult struggles.
Aisha’s entire existence, let alone her upbringing, was out of the ordinary. Her amazing joy for life and passion for art makes her stand out, not simply because of her disease and condition. “Black Sunshine Baby” proudly displays her artwork, with each segment of the film and tale accompanied by a work of art that bridges the gap between her life and the narration. As a result, it appears as though Aisha is telling the narrative herself. She resorted to the beauty of words and poetry to express her feelings when she ran out of canvases to paint and colors to fill. These prove to be the ideal outlets for her grief and rage at the world.
Furthermore, Niren and Aditi made every effort to provide Aisha with everything she could possibly desire. They crammed as many experiences as they could into their daughter’s limited time. From vibrant festivals and weddings in India to parties and home dance sessions to brighten up their dull days, the Chaudhary family went to great lengths to make Aisha’s time memorable in every way. The documentary paints an accurate picture of the lengths parents will go to ensure their children’s happiness. But, just when things were looking up for Aisha and her family, another calamity struck them like hail on glass.
When Aisha fainted on the school steps, she was rushed to the hospital, and the diagnosis jeopardized their practically perfect existence. Aisha was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis because her lung capacity was just 40%. Doctors attempted to reassure parents that the condition was not life-threatening and that Aisha could have a normal life with a few restrictions. Aisha eventually learned that God had even worse plans for her. Every time she tried to breathe, she felt smothered and her chest clenched. She also had to insert a mickey tube into her stomach since she couldn’t eat properly or obtain enough calories.
It becomes more difficult to watch the documentary without our emotions trembling with grief and pity as it proceeds. We think Aisha’s pets felt the same way. Aisha and Ishaan got two dogs, Kobe and Rolo, to keep her company because she couldn’t make friends easily. Aisha couldn’t travel around much or even attend school regularly, so Kobe and Rolo kept her company in addition to her painting. She adored them both in the same way as a mother adores her children. On one occasion, Aisha cried and yelled for her father to summon her because Kobe couldn’t get up or move. Niren checked on him and discovered that Kobe, being a devoted and loving dog, was attempting to take over Aisha’s misery for her to be happier. It’s difficult to overlook such a poignant demonstration of devotion from an animal.
Aisha’s bond with her dogs is reflected in her art, thoughts, and dreams. In one of her compositions, she remembers a dream in which Rolo dressed up to accompany her to prom. We can see how intricately Aisha’s worries and wants emerge in her impassioned paintings and poetries when we analyze her thoughts and sentiments further. She wishes her cherished puppies were humans instead of dogs since she couldn’t make friends or have regular adolescent interactions. She planned to forget about the rest of the world and get immersed in a dream world surrounded by her paintbrushes, canvases, and pet dogs.
It represents the agonizing reality of those who suffer from the illness every waking second. Furthermore, people’s sympathy or phony compassion did not make Aisha’s situation any better.
Aisha, like every other adolescent girl, had her first love and, as a result, her first heartbreak. She grinned and laughed all day as she chatted with a boy and reveled in her emotions. Things progressed steadily, and Aisha fell further and deeper in love with each passing day. She was dealt a devastating blow after finally confessing her affections to the lad, who did not return her sentiments. You’d think that a girl as tough as Aisha, who has gone through far more heartbreak in her life, would be able to overcome a shattered heart. But, at that point, the end of the world appears imminent, and nothing seems as dazzling. Aisha went through something similar. Niren and Aditi, on the other hand, were relieved to see their daughter enjoy this experience and live life to the fullest.
Finally, “Black Sunshine Baby” provides an in-depth look at Aisha’s life via the paintings and epiphanies she left behind. “My Little Epiphanies,” Aisha’s first and only book, was released by Bloomsbury shortly before her death. Her family treasures Aisha’s relics and remembers her in their hearts and prayers every day. Though nothing can fill the Aisha-shaped hole in the Chaudhary family’s heart, we hope they can go on knowing that the rest of the world understands and admires Aisha for her bravery, tenacity, and unflinching resolve to live a bit longer.