Thirty years after he first visited India as a student — travelling to Mumbai and Delhi, and marvelling at the Taj Mahal — Hollywood producer Gary Foster has chosen an Amdavadi pol for his second stint in India. At Dhal ni Pol, Foster made himself at home in a skylight room of a French Haveli, although he could have easily chosen to check into a five-star suite in the western part of the city But he besotted by the area’s character and enjoying strolling through its meandering four-feet lanes.

Foster is in Ahmedabad to meticulously plan his documentary on the mentally ill — a subject close to his heart.Accompanying him is Patrick Waismann, the director of the documentary.Foster and Waismann will catalogue the improvement in the condition of mentally ill patients in Gujarat’s nine mental health hospitals over a period of two years. It is a part of a WHO project called QualityRights. It is a unique initiative because it is being carried out for the first time in the world.

Foster has to his credit the critically acclaimed film “The Soloist”, starring Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx; and blockbusters like Robert De Niro’s “The Score” and “Sleepless in Seattle” starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. His filmography also includes works like “Daredevil”, “Tin Cup” and “Emperor”.

“I am in love with Ahmedabad’s Walled City,” says Foster. “I love the neighbourhood and its lanes; they are charming. The children here are wonderful and engaging, Patrick and I even played badminton with them.”

Foster felt sad that old pol houses and havelis in the Walled City were being pulled down. “How could one do this? Pulling down 200- and 300-year-old buildings would mean destroying the character and uniqueness of your city,” Foster says. “This place has nurtured hundreds of generations. It’s a 600-year-old museum of ideas. Some of the woodcraft that the buildings sport here is rarely seen.” There are thousands of people in the world who would want to come to Ahmedabad’s Walled City to experience its life, he says.

While working for “The Soloist” Foster found his purpose and associated himself with WHO’s QualityRights initiative. The film recounts the true life of a former cello prodigy who developed a mental health condition and became homeless.

“QualityRights aims to improve the quality and human rights in mental health and social care facilities and to empower organizations to advocate the rights of people with mental and psychosocial disabilities,” says Foster.“This documentary will be used by WHO to show the world how committed people, and inspired leaders in mental health programmes, can help change the condition of mentally ill patients.”Destigmatizing mental health conditions is a priority for both Foster and WHO.Foster will tour Mehsana, Kutch, Vadodara and Ahmedabad districts.

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