Amitabh just reminded me through twitter that it is World AIDs Day today. And I also got an email from the very very good local AIDs clinic in Chicago (donate to them! They do good stuff), and I thought it might be interesting to look at the few times Indian film as acknowledged the AIDs epidemic in the country. It’s about the same amount as American pop culture has acknowledged it, but more musical! (this is an updated and reposted post from last year)
One thing I find really helpful about these movies and learning about India, for me, is the reminder that AIDs isn’t necessarily a “gay” disease. It hasn’t been one in America for a long time really, although of course that is the community that was hit first and hardest for a long time. And in India, it is more about sex workers and spreading that way.
It’s a good reminder because, first, it helps in prevention if everyone is aware that it can strike anyone. And secondly, because it tells us that it really is random and coincidental, no one “deserves” this disease.
Anyway, songs! I LOVE Kaminey. And one of the things I love about it is that the only real true dance sequence in the film is an HIV prevention song!
Besides that song, Kaminey doesn’t really make a plot point of it. But Phir Milenge made a whole movie about HIV! And got big big names to be involved in it! That’s remarkable, I don’t know why it isn’t talked about more. Like, as a groundbreaking movie.
And then there’s Breakthrough, the not-for-profit in charge of making me cry. Not really, they do a lot of really wonderful work, one part of which is creating these amazing videos about issues, that connect not on an intellectual but on an emotional level. Like this one, which has a side effect of reminding us that AIDs can affect even the “innocent” people, that there is a responsibility to protect your loved ones from your potential infection, and that life can go on even after diagnosis.
There is another very good movie where the protagonist has AIDs, “My Brother Nikhil” (directed by Onir; with Juhi Chawla and Sanjay Suri):
Interestingly, the first movie Onir made (“I am”) was co-produced by everybody who wanted to invest in that movie, even with a small contribution (more than 400 people from different countries participated). He made 4 short-films (about sperm donation, child abuse, being gay and Kashmir trauma)
There was this short in the anthology Das Kahaniyan which had the issue. I would tell more but that’s like a spoiler.
People have almost stopped talking about AIDS now in India. It’s actually the result of extensive campaigning by NGOs that we’ve been able to contain the epidemic. So of course there aren’t more movies about the topic.