There are a few filmmakers who endeavour to make films without constraining them into the boundaries of criteria, such as ‘what the audience wants’, ‘what is the largest TG available in the market’, ‘have we incorporated all the Masala that is necessary for a film to hit the 100 CR mark’, ‘do we have at least one item song’, etc. These filmmakers are real filmmakers, just like real writers, who write ‘what they want to tell’ and not just ‘what the readers want to read’.
#Onir is one among such ‘purebloods’, who proved this from his very first film ‘My Brother… Nikhil’. Based on the real life accounts of Dominic D’Souza, the patient-zero for the HIV virus in Goa, this film is a tale of both, a brother and his sister. The brother, Nikhil, a state swimming champion and a homosexual is diagnosed with HIV and is immediately outcast, not only by the friends and society, but also his own parents. The loving elder sister, Anamika, a primary school teacher, is the only support for Nikhil, apart from his boyfriend, Nigel. The film tells us the efforts of Anamika and Nigel who struggle to break the dogmas associated with HIV in Goa (and India) in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
As it may seem, the movie is neither about homosexuality nor about HIV or AIDS. At the center of this story is the sensitive emotion called ‘empathy’. As relatives, as friends, as the fellow members of the society, and as the human beings what is expected of us? The ‘sense of community’ cannot be a shallow concept restricted to small groups based on caste, religion, language, sub-language, gender, or even sexuality. Ideally there is only one community that we know of as ‘Humanity’ and that’s it. And that’s what is at the core of this magnificent tale.
This film, although could never be irrelevant, is especially relevant in today’s time when ‘intolerance’ has become the heated subject of the nation. The ignorance and intolerance toward the ‘so-called’ taboo subjects reflects the lack of awareness and lack of education. It was understandable (not agreeable) in the 80’s and 90’s when the world was comparatively still in the dark. However, today the darkness is diminishing every coming day but the dogma associated with it is still pretty dense. Some movies in Hollywood, like ‘The Normal Heart’, try to create the same awareness and compassion today that ‘My Brother… Nikhil’ tried to create ten years ago. In comparison to ‘The Normal Heart’, I would give ‘My Brother… Nikhil’ a few extra points because it dealt with the subject with a multidimensional approach. It was not just a ‘tale of community’, but rather it incorporated all the outer elements with equal focus, i.e. friends, family, society, police, and the law. And as I said before, at the core of this story is a beautiful emotion of empathy between a brother and a sister that subsists alongside all the negativity around, which I would say is the heart of the story. It would have been very obvious to center the story around two lovers in this kind of a cinema, and it wouldn’t be wrong; however this film explores the sister-brother bond against such a different backdrop and that’s where the film sets itself apart.
#JuhiChawla, an actress whose famously vivacious personality has always overshadowed her versatility as an actress, delivers a controlled and sensitive portrayal of a sister who’s aghast with the news of her brother’s contraction of the virus, but pulls herself together and stands behind him like a ‘true loving elder sis’ that one could possibly imagine. The thread of a different cinema that she started by starring in ‘Teen Deewarein’ for the first time and then in ‘Jhankar Beats, Juhi added this glorious feather in her crown and garnered critical appreciation for her performance.
Onir, being a debut director, deserves a special applause for being so unafraid of the established norms and doing what seems most honest to his creative mind.
Overall, ‘My Brother… Nikhil’ is a movie that must never be missed… because it will surely add up some sensitivity to our disoriented mind and will tell us that ‘being there’ are not just the words.
#Onir #JuhiChawla #SanjaySuri #PurabKohli #LiletteDubey #VictorBanerjee