The good news first!
Hindi cinema is truly evolving, with newer themes being attempted at amazing regularity. In that respect, PHIR MILENGE makes an attempt to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS and how it affects the lives of those who get infected.
PHIR MILENGE does take the issue forward and with known names lending faces to the on-screen characters, the message would reach out to many at a go. Those with misconceptions about the ailment might get enlightened, to an extent.
And now the bad news!
With the best of stars at her disposal and good financial backing in the form of Percept and Sahara, Revathy could've cleared a lot of myths pertaining to HIV/AIDS. But neither does the film emerge as an engaging HIV/AIDS awareness exercise, nor does it come across as a hard-hitting courtroom drama.
Most importantly, the film talks of HIV/AIDS, the stigma associated with it and the untimely death of the person infected with the virus, but it doesn't talk of the available treatment that keeps the person alive and healthy for years together. In fact, the film is more about despair/misery/death and less about hope/optimism/life!
There are millions of people who have been infected with the virus, are well aware of it and leading a normal life. In today's times, Anti-Retroviral drugs are being used the world over. Strangely, not even once does PHIR MILENGE mention it.
After you've watched the pre-climax, you feel there's no hope for a person who has been infected with the disease. That's not true at all! Even if there's no cure, there's still hope and available treatment all over the world. With good nutrition and exercise, hygiene and precaution and Anti-Retroviral therapy [if prescribed], one can carry on with his/her life like any other normal person. Ideally, this should've been the conclusion of the film, in keeping with the current state of affairs!
Tamanna [Shilpa Shetty] works in an advertising agency. Her fresh, innovative ideas have resulted in the agency bagging the prized campaigns. She has a younger sister, Tanya, a radio jockey.
At her art and theatre school reunion, Tamanna meets old-time friend Rohit [Salman Khan] yet again, a person she was always attracted to. In the romantic settings of the college, love blossoms between Tamanna and Rohit and they spend some intimate moments together.
A few months later, Tamanna gets to know about her HIV + status. Her life comes to a screeching halt. Tamanna tries to get in touch with Rohit, but in vain. He is untraceable.
Tamanna loses her job due to her HIV + status. But she decides to fight for the gross injustice meted out to her. Unfortunately, none of the lawyers are ready to argue the case. Later, Tarun [Abhishek Bachchan], a young lawyer, comes to her rescue.
Will Tamanna set her life back in order? Does Rohit come back? Does she forgive Rohit?
The problem with the script of PHIR MILENGE is that it borrows heavily from director Jonathan Demme's much-acclaimed Hollywood flick PHILADELPHIA [1993; Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington]. Well, nothing wrong with being inspired by an acclaimed and successful film, but that film looked at the HIV/AIDS issue in America way back in 1993 - eleven years ago.
The medical fraternity has made tremendous progress ever since. But PHIR MILENGE, a film made in 2004, makes no references to the progress and the available treatment. That only proves that the writers have lifted the story from a film made 11 years ago, but not incorporated fresh ideas or updated themselves about the issue.
Besides this glaring defect, PHIR MILENGE is also handicapped by a flawed script. Salman Khan's characterization, for instance, is the weakest of the three principal characters. He disappears after the first 15 minutes and surfaces only towards the end for another few minutes.
Besides, the courtroom sequences that dominates the post-interval portions debate on the abilities and competency of Tamanna, which gets boring after a point. Of course, the vital sequence filmed on Abhishek in the concluding reels does raise a point, but it's spoken in English entirely. Why? A strong message like that should've been delivered in Hindi, in order to reach out to the masses!
Director Revathy deserves a pat for attempting an issue-based film [Mahesh Manjrekar's NIDAAN was also based on this issue]. But it's evident that she hasn't done complete research and updated herself on the issue. Even otherwise, her storytelling is of the kind that might only appeal to a niche audience. Even the multiplex crowd might get restless after a point since the film moves at a snail's pace throughout.
The film has barely three songs - 'Jeene Ke Ishaare', 'Khul Ke Muskurale' and 'Kuch Pal'. There's no denying that the songs come at proper points, but one misses some relief towards the grim post-interval portions. Also, the much publicized and extremely popular 'Betaab Dil Hai' is just not there in the film, which would catch the viewer unaware. Cinematography is of standard. Dialogues are functional.
PHIR MILENGE belongs to Shilpa Shetty completely. She delivers, what can be rightly called, the performance of her career. The viewer feels and empathizes with the character mainly because of her effective portrayal. She conveys the pain and the emotional upheaval through her expressive eyes, making it amongst the most memorable performances the year has seen so far.
Salman Khan is hardly there for 15-20 minutes in the film. Despite a miniscule role, the actor leaves an impression. Abhishek Bachchan's performance is first-rate, but he ought to take care of his appearance. The untidy and unshaven look is not what the viewer expects to watch, even though the film is meant to be realistic.
Nasser [as the senior lawyer] looks the part. Mita Vashisht [as the lawyer] is convincing. The actors in the role of the boss and Shilpa's sister are strictly okay.
On the whole, PHIR MILENGE is a half-baked experiment that neither works as an issue-based film or a courtroom drama. At the box-office, the film has face-value to attract the cinegoers, but not strong content to keep them glued to the screen. Besides, fans of Salman Khan will feel embittered since the actor is being highlighted in its promotion, but has a mere 15-20 minute role in the film. In the final tally, PHIR MILENGE may appeal to a small chunk of multiplex-going audiences, but for the majority, its rejection is imminent.