Sunday, April 03, 2005

[Movie Review] My Brother... Nikhil

I am not really a great fan of Hindi movies but I do watch some selected few now and then. So why did go to watch My Brother.. Nikhil? There are some reasons for that...

  • It is a low budget movie by a debutant director and it is not a commercial Bollywood movie, a genre I despise from the bottom of my heart.
  • It has Victor Bannerjee and apparently, he agreed to do the film based on the script (hmm.. that must mean that at least script showed promise)
  • It talks about social problems that accompanies a disease like AIDS in India. Looks inspired by Philadelphia, which I liked.

So, thats it. Thats all is required by a movie to attract me to it. All it needs to do is show promise. Of course, in this age where media is for sale, it is extremely difficult to judge which movie or book is good. An example of this is Tokyo Cancelled; one review compared the author to Salman Rushdie! and I fell for it; in my opinion, it is not worth the money I paid for it.

The movie did not disappoint me at all. I am one who notices the technical details of any movie but for a movie to be good, it does not need to be technically excellent; it needs to be made with a large heart. The film is low-budget and it shows throughout the movie but you will hardly notice it as it is a good movie and worth watching at least once. In fact, it is one of the few recent Hindi movies that I would suggest you to watch (remember, I would not recommend Black).
It is a story about a young man who contracts the dreaded virus - HIV and how the society responds to this revelation. It shows how people respond irrationally to things that they have little knowledge about and how even your parents who doted on you would throw you out of the house and find it very difficult to come to terms with the situation.
People are, in general, insensitive and selfish. But the movie does not chastise people for being so. All it says that people respond in this manner because they do not have all the facts before them. One of the best scenes in the movie is when Nikhil goes back to his former job and his manager asks him to resign citing people's fear that they might contract the disease from him. Nikhil responds by saying that it is he how who should be afraid of people around him as he could die by contracting a disease like common cold from any one of them. By pointing out the irony of the situation, the director has effectively communicated the lack of information available at that time (and today?).

Nikhil's story is told in the form of flashbacks by people who have known and loved him. But the real heros of the story are Nikhil's sister, who stands by him through thick and thin, and Nikhil's gay partner, who loves him in spite of the fact that Nikhil put him in danger (though he does not contract the disease).
It is shocking to see that, at one point of time, AIDS victims could be forcibly isolated and locked up by law! The story is set in the late eighties and pours into the early nineties and it is at a time when the campaign to educate people about AIDS was gathering momentum. But even now, people respond with the same kind of fear to AIDS patients and in spite of knowing about the way AIDS spread, they distance themselves from the victims. One of the main reasons for this is the isolation of AIDS patients from mainstream life. I could perhaps put the problem in one statement. If HIV positive people were allowed to live a normal life in society without gossips and finger-pointing, perhaps the gossips and finger-pointing would disappear.
The best way to combat the social problems that HIV positive people face is by educating people and letting them mingle. The movie stresses on this fact when Anju, Sam, and Nigel go on a public awareness campaign to free Nikhil from his confinement. They go out on the streets, meeting people and telling them about HIV and AIDS, and how cruel and unnecessary it is to keep HIV positive people under lock and key.
The rest of the movie shows how Nikhil manages to carve a niche for himself in society and suffers the repercussions of the HIV virus. It takes two years for his parents to finally accept him as a victim of a dreaded disease.

There are so many things I liked about this movie. One of them is Victor Banerjee. Victor, Victor Bannerjee; what an amazing, amazing actor! He plays the role of a stern father, who is a task-master and has high ambitions for his son, to perfection. He is the best act in the movie. His acting is natural and he lends the movie the much needed intensity that other actors fail to bring about in their roles. And he does not over-do it. It is just right! What can I say? I enjoyed watching him on screen.
The other aspect of the movie that I liked is the directing. It is a very tightly written script and the direction is good. He uses light effectively. He uses the darkness of the night to depict a dark mood in one of his characters. He uses the morning light for reminisces and positive thoughts. His framings are simple and uncluttered with needless extravagances. There is a lot of thinking that has gone behind the scenes and that shows on screen.
Another aspect of the movie that I liked that is that it is unapolegetic about gay relationships. Nikhil and Nigel are partners who are in love with eachother and the director shows their relationship with sensitivity. It is interesting to see this in a country where gay relationships are illegal and punishable by law! Another arachiac law, you say?
The film is set in Goa, place that I recently visited for a short visit. During the trip, I felt that, in spite of being a commecialized tourist spot, Goa has a small town feeling; where everyone knows everybody. The real Goans are hidden from the tourists and their culture is hardly seen by outsiders. The film reaffirms my belief in my observation. But I might be wrong as I stayed there for only three days.
Finally, let me say a word about Juhi. How can I not say anything about her? She is her usual optimistic self in this movie and she is the bright spot in a movie that is grim from start to finish. Her smile lights up the screen at the appropriate instances and helps in lightening the mood a little. I hope she will keep appearing in such good movies, for the selfish wish to see her on screen...

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