On World AIDS Day, a look at films on HIV/AIDS, from Philadelphia to Phir Milenge - Firstpost
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On World AIDS Day, a look at films on HIV/AIDS, from Philadelphia to Phir Milenge


Thursday, 1 December is observed as World AIDS Day and is an ode to the courageous individuals who are combating HIV. It's a day for people everywhere to bring out their red ribbons and show support for the fight to end this deadly disease.

We have come a long way since the first reported case of HIV in 1981, but for the nearly 2.1 million  people in India who live with HIV — and the millions more at risk of infection — the fight is far from over.

Here are a list of five films that celebrate and talk about the challenges of being accepted as an HIV patient; to the challenges of being in love:

Rent

A still from the film. Image courtesy: Creative Commons.

A still from the film. Image courtesy: Creative Commons.

Based on the 1896 'La Bohème' Soap Opera by Giacomo Puccini, which had the leading lady, Mimi, dying tragically of tuberculosis; Rent is a musical, modern take on the soap.

When Jonathan Larson adapted the opera for his 1996 Broadway musical, he substituted AIDS for tuberculosis. It was a logical move because in the 1980s and early '90s, an AIDS diagnosis was as much a death sentence as TB was in the 19th century.

Rent tells the story of one year in the life of friends living the Bohemian life in modern day East Village, New York City, 1989-1990. The friends go through the everyday struggles of life (like paying rent) in New York City; and face the evil villain of the AIDs epidemic together.

Rosario Dawson, Taye Diggs, Idina Menzel (yes, that’s the singer of famed ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen) play pivotal roles in the musical adaptation of the film.

Precious

Precious is based on the novel Push by Sapphire. Image courtesy: Creative Commons.

Precious is based on the novel Push by Sapphire. Image courtesy: Creative Commons.

The 2009 film by Lee Daniels, based on the novel Push by Sapphire, deals with a very central issue: A teenage mother's HIV-positive status.

A 16-year-old girl from Harlem, New York tries to break the cycle of abuse, neglect and desperation in her family by trying to get an education and a job, even after she discovers she is HIV positive.

The film demonstrates that even for those in dire economic and personal situations, hope and help are available, and that having HIV has no bearing on a person’s fitness as a parent or ability to achieve their dreams.

Jeffery

A still from the film. Image courtesy: Youtube

A still from the film. Image courtesy: Youtube

Dating is a difficult game, even sans a positive HIV status. Made during the golden-era of rom-coms of the 1990s and the height of the 90s HIV crisis, the film navigates the challenges of sex and dating; with the additional drama of AIDS.

Though it does not have a dark, macabre tone despite the lead having an HIV positive status, it manages to give the condition appropriate weight.

Steven Webber plays the titular character who swears off sex because of the prospect of losing his potential partner.Then he meets a charming HIV-positive man (Michael T Weiss) who makes him question everything. The cast features a pre-Professor Xavier Patrick Stewart going into full-on dandy mode. It also features actors and gay icons Victor Garber, Nathan Lane, Christine Baranski, Olympia Dukakis, and Hocus Pocus star Kathy Najimy.

Philadelphia 

A still from the film. Image courtesy: CC

A still from the film. Image courtesy: CC

Another one from the 90s, when the AIDs epidemic was at its peak, presents Tom Hanks at his absolute best.

Inspired by Geoffrey Bowers' life, an HIV positive lawyer who sued his firm for wrongful dismissal based on his illness; the courtroom drama is packed with powerful performances.

Tom Hanks plays Beckett, a Philadelphia lawyer, who takes his former firm to court when he is fired days after his colleagues discover he has AIDS and has a homophobic lawyer (played by the brilliant Denzel Washington) fight his case.

This film serves as a challenging — and very necessary — reminder of the fear, misconceptions, and outright homophobia many HIV/AIDS victims faced in the disease's early days.

How To Survive A Plague

A still of the documentary. Image courtesy: Youtube

A still of the documentary. Image courtesy: Youtube

Journalism and filmmaking at its best, How To Survive A Plague recounts the early years of the AIDS epidemic and the efforts made by ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) to fight the disease.

The Oscar-nominated documentary was directed by David France, a journalist who covered AIDS from its beginnings. The documentary takes a looks at HIV positive young people, who broke the mold by taking on Washington and the medical establishment. Despite having no scientific training, these activists infiltrated the pharmaceutical industry to assist in the creation of drugs that would help treat symptoms of AIDS.

My Brother Nikhil

A still from the film. Image courtesy: Creative commons.

A still from the film. Image courtesy: Creative commons.

One of the best and most memorable films about AIDS surprisingly comes from Bollywood. Sanjay Suri plays a national level swimmer living in Goa in the ’80s, and has everything going for him. His picture-perfect world is turned upside down when he is diagnosed with HIV. His loving family and friends ostracise him, with the exception of his sister (Juhi Chawla) and her husband. The film is the exploration of the interpersonal dynamics of an AIDS patient — who also happens to be gay.

Phir Milenge

A still from the film. Image courtesy: Creative Commons.

A still from the film. Image courtesy: Creative Commons.

Phir Milenge, inspired by Philadelphia is directed by Revathy and replaces the male protagonist of the original with a female one in Shilpa Shetty.

Shilpa Shetty is a successful ad executive who is doomed with an HIV infection after a one night stand with her old college crush (Salman Khan). After getting fired from her company because of her HIV positive status, she hires a reluctant lawyer (Abhishek Bachchan) to fight her case.

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 13:17 IST

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