Phir Milenge (2004)
Directed by: Revathi | 180 minutes | drama | Actors: Salman Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Shilpa Shetty, Mita Vasisht, Revathi
Bollywood is broadening its horizons. Not only action films and light-hearted fare about love triangles form the repertoire of this film industry. ‘Phir Milenge’ (“see you again”) shows that there is also room for heavier themes. It is the first time that a difficult and sensitive subject such as AIDS is treated in a film from India, which was previously barely discussed here. For that alone, this film deserves a star. In addition, it is commendable that ‘Phir Milenge’ has become such a modest work, without much melodrama or preaching, a danger that is nevertheless present.
The film largely “borrowed” the story from Jonathan Demme’s ‘Philadelphia’ (1993) starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. Also in that film, an HIV-infected person challenges his dismissal with the help of a (at one point) passionate lawyer. In addition to this central premise, specific scenes and iconography from that film have also been adopted. For example, a number of times the image reappears of someone withdrawing his hand, or physically aloof when acquainted with the HIV-infected Tamanna. Also, the assessment of Tamanna’s work by superiors or clients suddenly appears to be in a negative sense in the courtroom no longer consistent with previous statements. Furthermore, the image of the dying Rohit, who is in bed with an oxygen mask, is very familiar (although Rohit doesn’t look half as sick as Tom Hanks’ character in ‘Philadelphia’).
The court scenes are not very interesting, especially for those who are familiar with Demme’s film. And while the defense attorney is portrayed in an interesting, relentless manner by Mita Vasisht, Bachchan is a bit lackluster in this part of the film. He lacks the right enthusiasm in his final plea to properly involve the viewer in his story and case. Perhaps it would have been better if he hadn’t made this plea in English but in Hindi: in his native language his story might have come out a bit more naturally, while it now comes across a bit melodramatic. There also seems to be hardly any reason to opt for English, and it is the Indian people here that should actually be reached.
One difference with ‘Philadelphia’ is that quite a bit of attention is paid to the story prior to (and the cause of) the contamination, when Tamanna meets her old love Rohit again. It’s just a shame that this piece is a bit slow and (too) overly romantic. Also, Rohit comes across a bit odd. The story is that he didn’t know that he had anything (or at least HIV) among the members here, but he does come across in such a fragile and melancholic way that the viewer gets the impression that something is wrong with him. the hand. While this story doesn’t quite come to fruition, it does bring interesting emotions to Tamanna over the course of the film, as she is simultaneously angry with Rohit for the contamination and sympathetic to him. Beautiful in this regard is the scene towards the end of the film in which Tamanna sits on the floor next to a wheelchair-bound Rohit, who was out of reach for the entire film but has now finally reappeared, weeping softly. This scene contains all kinds of emotions: sadness, anger, togetherness, love… Also the scene in which Tamanna takes a water bottle from her sister who is just about to drink from it, while she herself had drunk from it just before. The sister reacts angrily with the comment that if she wants others to throw overboard their prejudices about AIDS and HIV(patients), she must first (certainly) not discriminate against herself. It is in these kinds of subtle moments, in which the film develops its own character, apart from its inspiration, that ‘Phir Merenge’ makes the most impression.
The fact that this subtlety is so successful is largely due to the (usually) very successful acting of Shilpa Shetty, who plays the role of Tamanna. Her eyes and different facial expressions speak volumes, and it is because of this that we as viewers are so strongly connected to her character and almost literally get a glimpse into her soul. A scene in which her acting talent comes to the fore is when she is first told that she is infected with the virus and, after a logically short period of denial, her whole world slowly but surely collapses. Another well-acted scene is where she hears the outcome of the lawsuit from her lawyer, and tearfully decides to put her energies into (a valuable) use of her life from now on.
It is a pity that this old story has not been able to add some more new elements, and does not convince enough in the court part, but the good acting coupled with several beautiful, subtly witty moments makes the film also for a Western audience. (which is familiar with ‘Philadelphia’) becomes worthwhile