Article Hindi

Mira Nair's Migration, Irrfan Khan’s lesser known short film

Irrfan Khan played a homosexual man in this short film on AIDS awareness by Mira Nair.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Although it is well known that actor Irrfan Khan could not be a part of Mira Nair’s path-breaking film Salaam Bombay (1988) that went on to win several international awards, he did work with her many years later in The Namesake (2006) based on Jhumpa Lahiri’s eponymous novel and on the anthology film, New York, I Love You (2008).

However, he also starred in a lesser known short film, Migration (2008), that was produced for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to dispel myths about HIV/AIDS and create awareness about it.

Written by Zoya Akhtar and directed by Nair, the film stars Khan with Sameera Reddy, Shiney Ahuja and Raima Sen. In an interview, Mira Nair recalled that the brief was “to cast movie stars in every role in these films, and to put them out before Bollywood blockbusters in the theatres so that the masses coming to see their favourite movie stars would actually see them in a pretty dramatic and entertaining way to wake them up to the fact of HIV and AIDS.”

Intermingling stories from rural and urban India, Migration examines the encounter between urban lives and those of migrant workers who come to work in Mumbai. A poor farmer (Shiney Ahuja) comes to work at a construction site in Mumbai where he meets a lonely wife Divya (Sameera Reddy), who is trapped between her berating mother-in-law and a sexless, loveless marriage. What she does not know is that her husband Abhay (Irrfan Khan) is gay and has a male lover.

While the film concentrates on the ways in which people unwittingly infect each other with the virus, it weaves in multiple concerns. It rips off the veneer of morality in middle-class homes that trap women in traditional roles while exploring ways in which the fear of society traps homosexual men and their heterosexual partners.

It is interesting that Irrfan Khan chose to play the role of a gay man even though he was reportedly offered the part of the farmer, which was a more straightforward role. The film is also testimony to his prowess as an actor as Khan naturally inhabited any character that he would play on screen.

Click here to watch Mira Nair's short film Migration.