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Indian-American film on unregulated supplements makes a splash

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

A movie on the dangers of unregulated dietary supplements -- based on the real life story of a young Indian-American who succumbed to them -- has been making waves in various film festivals besides prompting top US officials to initiate steps against the menace.

'The Last Smile', directed by Shankey Srinivasan, is the story of Amit Zutshi -- the son of the film's producer Jeevan Zutshi -- who died in 2008.

"The movie was produced with the sole purpose of educating the masses about the dangers and life threatening impact of taking unregulated supplements that are available over the counters in the US," Zutshi told PTI in an interview.

It was screened at the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival last weekend and will have its Italy premiere in Florence next weekend at the 2016 edition of River to River Florence Indian Film Festival.

"The last smile of my son Amit, three days before his passing on March 19, 2008, due to the dangerous unregulated supplements will never die, through Amit Zutshi Foundation, my book and movie The Last Smile as a tribute to him and as a vehicle to save other lives," Zutshi said, before leaving for Italy this week.

Based on Zutshi's book with the same title, the movie was screened at Capitol Hill early this year which was attended by several lawmakers and influential Congressional aides. It was officially screened by Cinequest Film Festival on March 10, voted Best Film Festival by USA Today, for its world premiere.

Since then it has been screened at various prestigious international festivals including Palm beach international Film Festival in April, Vancouver Asian Film Festival in November, Livermore Valley Film Festival as well as a film festival in North Carolina.

'The Last Smile' was also nominated for the best picture at the Marbella International Film Festival alongside the eventual winner, Golden Years, which was produced by British filmmaker Mark Foligno, who also produced the Oscar winning film 'The King's Speech'.

After the unfortunate death of his son Amit, Zutshi has

been single-handedly running a campaign against unregulated drugs --- talking to lawmakers and convincing the government to initiate action against manufacturers of dietary supplements.

As a result, the Justice Department itself has taken action against more than 100 makers and marketers of dietary supplements.

The New York State Attorney has asked four major retailers - Walmart, GNC, Target and Walgreens - to cease sale of their store branded herbal supplements as they do not contain the herbs purportedly listed on their labels.

"As the Indian consumer market is aping the west, and such supplements are now flooding Indian stores, it is important for the Indian government to take steps against them," Zutshi said, adding that very few of the dietary supplements which claim to be miracle pills are backed by scientific research.

From Italy, Zutshi is headed to India, where he plans to screen his movie.

"It is very important to raise awareness about it in India," he said. "I have paid a very heavy price because of this. My life changed forever because of these evil manufacturers and dealers of these unregulated supplements."

Zutshi said his campaign is against the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry involved in marketing the "life threatening products", a market that remains totally unregulated by the FDA.

In the US, as many as 23,000 people end up in hospitals every year due to dietary supplements, Zutshi said referring to a study.

First Published: Sun, November 27 2016. 14:48 IST