On Menon’s Safe Sets

63c093d0fb2a5b1d80ff61e5ec533f89-2PHIR MILENGE. Director: Revathi Menon. Players: Shilpa Shetty, Abhishek Bachchan, Salman Khan. Hindi with English subtitles. DVD (Sahara) 2004.

It isn’t often that an A-list Hindi film is heralded by critics, the box office and the United Nations alike, and yet that is exactly what happened with Revathi Menon’s touching celluloid meditation on the ravages of AIDS in India. On Sahara’s sharp DVD transfer, Phir Milenge retains its subtle, eye-opening grip by drawing on the nuanced performances that make it come alive.

Atul Sabharwal’s first-rate script follows Tamanna Sahani (Shetty), a hot-shot creative director for a successful Mumbai ad agency, whose highly promising career is thrown into disarray when she is unceremoniously fired after testing positive for HIV. Drawn into the fold are Tamanna’s childhood friend (Khan), and a rookie lawyer (Bachchan) who reluctantly agrees to work with Tamanna in her lawsuit for wrongful dismissal.

Shetty brilliantly channels an edgy inner rage clouded by bouts of self-doubt that is poignantly captured through unblinking close-ups. Bachchan as a legal novice who must overcome his own prejudices and Khan as Tamanna’s would-be paramour also excel. Here finally is a female-centered premise that is gender-equalizing without even once exploding into feminist outbursts. With an unabashedly frank dialog dwelling on transmission and control of HIV and AIDS, Phir Milenge is also noteworthy for dishing out both a red-flag-on-the-horizon warning as well as good entertainment.

Director Menon’s flick received an unusual boost when UNAIDS, the anti-AIDS arm of the UN, cited this film for its educational value. In addition to artistic credence, the UN seal of approval also highlighted the popularity of Hindi films in Asia and elsewhere. You go, girl!

—Aniruddh Chawda

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