You may remember the 2005 Bollywood film, Onir’s My Brother… Nikhil, which heartrendingly captured D’Souza’s saga.
Picture this: India of 1989. When the country wasn’t capable enough to deal with HIV, and certainly not emancipated enough to accept people living with the disease. This is when people diagnosed with HIV were sent into isolation, in a knee-jerk reaction to curbing the spread of the disease. An employee of World Wildlife Fun (WWF) in Goa, Dominic D’Souza, was the first one in the state. When D’Souza was diagnosed HIV positive, he was arrested, quarantined, and kept in an unused TB sanatorium, as the sole inmate; no thanks to the Goa, Daman and Diu Public Health Act, 1985, amended in 1986, authorising the State to isolate HIV-positive patients.
What the gut-wrenching episode led to was a legal battle of human rights fought by D’Souza, his mother, friend Isabel de Santa Rita Vas, and a young Human Rights lawyer from Mumbai —Anand Grover. After 64 days of isolation, D’Souza quit his job and formed the NGO People Positive to fight for the basic rights of and help people living with HIV. You may remember the 2005 Bollywood film, Onir’s My Brother… Nikhil, which heartrendingly captured D’Souza’s saga.
Sunday, May 14, 2017, marks the 25th death anniversary of Dominic, who breathed his last in Mumbai exactly a month after registering his NGO. On his death anniversary, Gay Bombay, a support group for gay men in the city, is paying D’Souza homage with Remembering Dominic – And The Movement He Helped Start. To be held at G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, the tribute will screen filmmaker Sopan Muller’s short documentary Dominic’s Dream and My Brother… Nikhil, followed Onir and advocate Anand Grover talking about what Dominic’s story personally means to them.
The 23-minute documentary juxtaposes Positive People’s journey from when it began to what it’s doing for the people living with HIV. “Unfortunately, D’Souza’s family doesn’t live in India any more, so I couldn’t get them to be a part of the film. But, I did get Isabel de Santa Rita Vaz and the current members of People Positive to talk about their work,” says Sopan, who visited the NGO in December 2016 to put together snapshots of the organisation’s World AIDS Day programme, and was approached by the NGO to make the documentary. “I have myself been involved in spreading AIDS awareness a few times in the past, and Dominic D’Souza’s is such a crucial chapter in the issues of people dealing with HIV,” Sopan says.
D’Souza’s is a story that’s also close to the organiser Vikram Doctor’s heart, even though they never met. The writer says, “Dominic D’Souza’s story is important because it led to two major campaigns in India — rights of people living with HIV and Section 377. This tribute is just a way to remember Dominic and what he has done for both these causes.”
The cast members of the film, Sanjay Suri, Juhi Chawla, and Purab Kohli, may also attend the tribute. With the tribute, the organisers hope to get more youngsters to watch My Brother… Nikhil, which portrays D’Souza’s story and is one of repression overcome by hope and victory.
On May 14, 1.30 to 6 pm