AIDS in the cinematic imagination…

Updated: Dec 02, 2010, 15:56 PM IST

Bikas Bhagat

More than the AIDS, it’s the social stigma and discrimination that kills an HIV patient inside out. Cinema comes around as a perfect medium to highlight the biting irony – How can you be negative when the blood is positive?

As a means to spread AIDS awareness and as a tribute to all AIDS infected patients, the global film fraternity along with Bollywood has come up with incredible ideas as an extension to the noble cause.

Movies are great entertainers. And these HIV related movies do an excellent job of entertaining. But this list of the best HIV/AIDS related movies also educate and send a message to the viewer. Let`s take a look at contribution of cinema towards the awareness of this dreadful disease.

Phir Milenge

Salman Khan and Shilpa Shetty starrer ‘Phir Milenge’ was an incredibly woven heart wrenching tale of fighting the odds in the face of profound adversity. Shilpa Shetty plays the central character of Tamanna who suddenly learns she is HIV positive and the word around her changes for ever. The film touches on ignorance, fear, stigma, discrimination in the workplace and the use of the courts to right wrongs committed against those living with HIV.

My Brother Nikhil

The film can certainly be called as one of the best movies about HIV and AIDS in Bollywood. Talented Sanjay Suri proves through his role that he is probably one of industry’s hugely under rated actor. Portraying the role of a happy-go-lucky yet intense character of an AIDS victim, Suri is deserted by his family and his girl friend. His only hope is his sister, great performance by Juhi Chawla, who stands by him through thick and thin. The movie also highlights about the plight of gays, showing that they are as normal as us and they deserve to be given a social respect by all.

AIDS Jaago

While these two films went a long way in tantalizing the social consciousness, there have been many HIV/AIDS themed films in regional languages which have created awareness about the epidemic. Various short/telefilms deserve special mention as they brought the syndrome “out of the closet”. One of the major short/telefilms in this field was ‘AIDS Jaago’ rolled out in 2007.

‘AIDS Jaago’ is a collection of four short films namely ‘Blood Brothers’, ‘Positive’, ‘Prarambha’ and ‘Migration’, produced by Mirabhai Films (a company owned by filmmaker Mira Nair) and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Bedsides these Bollywood films, some poignant Hollywood movies which have helped encouraging more responsible behavior to curtail the spread of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) are as follows:


Philadelphia is probably one of the best known of all the modern day movies made to depict the suffering of AIDS victims. Released in 1993 and starring Tom Hanks as senior legal associate Andrew Beckett, the movie deals with the main character`s struggle to deal, not only with the homophobic prejudices of his associates, but also his battle with AIDS.

Angels in America

An adaptation of Tony Kushner`s Pulitzer Prize-winning play to a biopic, director Mike Nichols has crafted a profound, ambitious masterpiece. The film follows a sprawling group of characters as they navigate their way through the cutthroat New York City of the 1980s, when AIDS began to raise its ugly head.

A Mother`s Prayer

A Mother`s Prayer looked at AIDS from the perspective of a mother who is struggling to bring up her young son after the death of her husband. Having been diagnosed with the disease, she has to face the issue of what will happen to her son when she dies.

And the Band Played On

A sterling transformation of Randy Shilts` landmark prize-winning document on the cause of AIDS and ways to find the cure of the disease, was gripping right from the onset. Compelling storytelling and a remarkable performance by Modine as the head for the Centers for Disease Control facing impossible odds and heartbreaking frustrations made it all worth a cause.


A modern spin on the opera La Boheme, ‘Rent’ tells the story of eight friends dealing with life and love in Manhattan`s Alphabet City in 1989. Over the course of a year, the friends face poverty, drug addiction, break-ups, reconciliations, eviction, and AIDS. Despite these challenges, they find support, hope, and acceptance in each other, all the while embracing the bohemian lifestyle accepting the fate which was writ large on each of their face.

Cinema may not be hugely responsible for the wonderful story, but the significant role it plays by creating awareness among the masses can never be underestimated.

New HIV infections have decreased by almost 20 percent in the past decade, and AIDS-related deaths are down by about one-sixth in five years, according to a new United Nations report.

With no permanent cure yet in sight and stigma still attached to the syndrome, cinematic imaginations can always help to dispel the discrimination.

December 1 is observed as the World AIDS Day.