|My Brother Nikhil
One of the first mainstream Indian film to tackle the subject of AIDS,
MY BROTHER NIKHIL was shown as part of the 2005 New York Asian Film Festival
at The ImaginAsian.
As the film, opens, the titular character (well played by Sanjay Suri) is dead and his grieving
family, sister Anu (Juhi Chawla), mother (Lilete Dubey) and father (Victor Banerjee) are in
mourning. There are direct addresses to the camera as they recall the life of their family member.
In the early 1990s, Nikhil was a local swimming champion in Goa and a popular figure in the
area. He’s beloved by his family and also has the requisite best friend, Nigel (Purab Kohli). Much
time is spent establishing the family and their close relations.
Everything changes, though, when Nikhil goes in for a routine medical test. The doctor
doesn’t come out and tell him he has contracted HIV exactly, but soon people are shunning him,
he’s dropped from the swim team, and eventually he’s arrested and placed in quarantine in a
run-down, rat-infested sanitarium. His sister and her new husband Sam (Gautam Kapoor),
along with his mate Nigel (whom we come to learn was also his lover) strive to secure his freedom.
Meanwhile, his parents succumb to the pressures and leave the area.
While it has taken India a very long time to address the issue of AIDS on film, we here in
America are used to seeing such films as PARTING GLANCES, LONGTIME COMPANION,
the television drama AN EARLY FROST, and many others. So coming to the movie with a
Western perspective does hamper one’s full appreciation of the material.
Writer-director Onir, however, has managed to hit all the requisite moments and many
audience members at The ImaginAsian were in tears by the film’s end. The performances are
generally fine. Suri and Chawla have a lovely chemistry and are quite believable as siblings.
Kohli does well in several scenes, but the couple’s relation is as chaste as that of Tom Hanks
and Antonio Banderas in PHILADELPHIA, something with which many may find fault.
The bottom line is that MY BROTHER NIKHIL is a moving slice of history about a
particular moment and place. It’s a worthy addition to the canon of films about AIDS and
MPAA Rating: None
Running time: 120 mins.
|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.