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5 Bollywood films and one anthology that dealt with HIV/AIDS with great sensitivity

Nagesh Kukunoor, Onir, Mahesh Bhatt, Mahesh Manjrekar, Revathy, Mira Nair, Santosh Sivan, Vishal Bhardwaj and Farhan Akhtar have directed these films

Agnivo Niyogi Calcutta Published 01.12.22, 02:11 PM
Juhi Chawla and Sanjay Suri in Onir’s My Brother… Nikhil.

Juhi Chawla and Sanjay Suri in Onir’s My Brother… Nikhil. IMDB

Raising awareness about the lives of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS without sounding preachy is a tall task that a handful of Indian filmmakers have managed to pull off. On World AIDS Day, we take a look at five films and one anthology that have dealt with the subject with great sensitivity and set a benchmark.

Nidaan (2000)


Starring Nisha Bains, Sanjay Dutt, Shivaji Satam, Reema Lagoo and Sunil Barve, Mahesh Manjrekar’s family drama is the story of a young girl Soumya (Nisha Bains) who tests positive for HIV after participating in a blood donation drive. She experiences social discrimination for the first time in life in the aftermath of contracting the virus. Everyone, save her parents and boyfriend, shun her. Soumya struggles to survive the taunts, jeers and constant bullying that accompany her wherever she goes. Nidaan served as a reality check for audiences at a time when HIV-AIDS was a huge social stigma.

Phir Milenge (2004)

Inspired by Ron Nyswaner’s 1993 classic Philadelphia, Revathy directed this critically-acclaimed tale celebrating an HIV-positive person’s fight for justice and acceptance. Shilpa Shetty plays Tamanna Sahni, the creative head of an advertising agency, whose life takes a turn when she meets her ex-flame, Rohit (Salman Khan), at a college reunion. The two get intimate and then move on with their lives.

Soon after, Tamanna discovers she is HIV-positive. Reeling under the shock, she loses her job and seeks legal recourse against the action of her employers. Tamanna eventually receives support from a lawyer named Tarun Anand (Abhishek Bachchan) who wins the case for her. Tamanna goes on to start her own successful business venture after this victory.

My Brother…Nikhil (2005)

Onir’s poignant tale is set in Goa between 1986 and 1994. Nikhil (Sanjay Suri) is a swimming champion who brought laurels to his state. But when he is diagnosed with HIV, his family, friends and admirers desert him. To add insult to injury, Nikhil is arrested and kept in isolation because of his medical status. During these dark times, his sister Anamika (Juhi Chawla) and his friend Nigel (Purab Kohli) stand by him and fight for his rights. My Brother…Nikhil portrays the difference that the support of loved ones can make to a person with an HIV diagnosis.

Aisa Kyon Hota Hai? (2006)

Kiran (Rati Agnihotri) is a single mother who raises her son Raj (Aryan Vaid) with a lot of love and care. Raj is the heartthrob in college, and a star basketball player whose attention girls vie for. He is also a casanova who has unprotected sex, and his charisma takes a hit when Raj learns that he is HIV positive. Adding to his woes, the woman he loves rejects him leaving Raj heartbroken and dejected. Directed by Mahesh Bhatt, this social drama questions the stigma associated with AIDS.

AIDS Jaago (2007)

Four acclaimed directors — Mira Nair, Santosh Sivan, Vishal Bhardwaj and Farhan Akhtar — came together to raise awareness about HIV-AIDS in this anthology of four short films.

Prarambha, directed by Santosh Sivan, revolves around Puttaswamy (Prabhu Deva), a truck driver, who stands up for the rights of an HIV-positive child. Mira Nair’s Migration deals with a closeted gay man (Shiney Ahuja) who leads a secret life unknown to his wife.

In Positive, Farhan Akhtar tells the story of a young boy Abhijit (Arjun Mathur), who grows up seeing his father (Boman Irani) involved in extramarital relationships. Years later his mother (Shabana Azmi) informs Abhijit that his father has contracted HIV, and the family comes together to comfort the dying man. Vishal Bhardwaj’s Blood Brothers portrays the upheaval caused in the life of Arjun Dutt (Siddharth) after being mistakenly diagnosed with HIV.

Aashayein (2010)

Nagesh Kukunoor’s heartrending drama revolves around Rahul (John Abraham), a compulsive gambler, whose life changes after he finds out that he is suffering from cancer. He is admitted to a rehabilitation centre for people suffering from incurable diseases. There he comes across a former sex worker named Madhu (Farida Jalal), who is suffering from AIDS. She is intelligent, caring and wants nothing but respect from society. How Rahul forms strong ties with Madhu and the other residents of the centre forms the rest of the plot.

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