About the story: Soumya Nadkarni (Nisha Bains) lives in Mumbai with her parents Anirudh (Shivaji Satham) and Suhasini (Reema Lagoo); she studies at the I.B. Institute and is a big fan of the actor Sanjay Dutt. Together with her friend Ninad Kamat (Sunil Barve) she donates blood at a blood donation drive. During her final exams, Soumya falls ill with high fever. Dr S.D. Potnis (Sunil Shende) supposes that she’s got malaria and arranges for several medical tests which unveil that Soumya is HIV positive. The family is devastated, but Ninad stands by Soumya and even marries her. Thus Soumya gathers vital energy and resits and passes her final exams. At the same time her father decides to fulfill Soumya’s dearest wish: to meet Sanjay Dutt in person once in her life...
In a Stardust interview in April 2000, Mahesh Manjrekar (director of Vaastav and several more films with Sanjay Dutt, also actor in some movies produced by White Feather Films) spoke about his early film Nidaan which had to wait long for its release and then flopped. Nidaan is a film about AIDS, an issue which in 1997, when Mahesh did his film, in India still was highly explosive. It tells the story of a young girl getting infected with the HIV virus, and of the reactions in her surroundings. In the end-90es, this issue obviously was so risky that Mahesh only with great difficulties found a producer at all and had to cast a newcomer for the leading role as none of the established heroines wanted to play a girl suffering from AIDS.
Interesting in the double sense is the role Sanjay Dutt played in this project. When Mahesh Manjrekar worked on his Nidaan script he wanted the girl suffering from AIDS to meet the hero of her dreams, and as Manjrekar always had been very fond of film actor Sanjay Dutt he imagined him for this part. He and the actor hadn’t ever met before, but finally he managed to contact Sanjay and to tell him about his project. Sanjay had always done a great deal for suffering people, be it drug addiciton, cancer or AIDS, and saw the chance to attract awareness for this terrible illness. So Sanjay agreed to do a special appearance in Manjrekar’s film, and he did it for free – something he often does for friends, but this might be the first time that Sanjay in this way supported a director completely unknown to him.
In the end credits Sanjay got acknowledgements “for his very special appearance” but he had all the reasons to be grateful himself. Rarely he was revered so openly on the silver screen, and rarely an actor’s name was named so often in a film as Sanjay Dutt’s in Nidaan. After the song “Tu Shayar Hai” from Sanjay’s movie Saajan was heard in the opening scene, Soumya and her friends sing about him in their frist song, holding up his poster; a large movie poster (without title, but obviously Sanjay in Mahaanta) makes Soumya delightedly scream “Oh Sanju, my sweetie-pie!”; and of course she has his pictures on her room’s walls and tells them lovingly good night. Sanjay’s appearance at the end of the film starts at a film set of “Ashwani Films” where “Sanjay Dutt und Punam Malhotra” are shooting for a film called “Nayak No. 1” - an allusion to Sanjay’s big success Khalnayak and, at the same time, another statement in favour of the “hero no. 1” who, after having spent one and a half years as an undertrial in jail, at that time still was suspected by many to be a terrorist.
Nisha Bains is charming in the role of Soumya; watching her makes you suppose that her role model is Kajol but as it goes well with the character it doesn’t really matter. Soumya’s caring parents are convincingly played by Shivaji Satham and Reema Lagoo; maybe that’s why Manjrekar casted them for his next movie Vaastav as the parents of Raghubhai (Sanjay Dutt). And one more actor beside Sanjay in Nidaan should a few years later become a remarkable co-star of Sanjay on the silver screen: Dilip Prabhavalkar, here playing the role of Ninad’s father Shrikant Kamat, was to be the wonderful Gandhi in Sanjay’s blockbuster Lage Raho Munnabhai.
A little surprise is Sunil Barve’s Ninad - not a smart Hindi film lover, more the sweet nerd with glasses… however, not colourless, but loveable, even when he’s jealous of Soumya’s heartthrob Sanjay. And it’s with him Sanjay has his best interaction during his guest appearance when he first jokes about pretty Soumya already being married which leaves him chanceless and then tells Ninad, “I envy you” - to which Ninad confidently replies, “You should”. Very obviously Sanjay shot for this scene during his Daud times, and at that time there was no jadoo ki jhappi yet; Soumya doesn’t get more than a pat on the cheek and some nice words from her favourite star. But Sanjay comes across very loveably, and the public excitement about his presence convey an impression about how popular the actor was at that time in spite of the terrorism accuses. (Sanjay’s scene)
In October 1997, the film magazine Stardust wrote, “Thank God for small mercies. One finally seems to be waking up to the AIDS crisis, here in Bollywood. Sanjay Dutt has taken the initiative and has agreed to do a special appearance in a film titled Nidaan, along with television and theatre artistes Reema Lagoo, Nisha and Shivaji Satham. The film will go a long way in spreading awareness about the deadly disease and the difficulties that the victims and their families face while dealing with this fatal illness. Sanjay will be playing himself in the film. Cheers to the Deadly Dutt for taking time off his busy schedule to star in this socially moving film.”
Unfortunately, Nidaan was not appreciated as the makers had hoped for, and obviously the film was never released on VCD or DVD; only on YouTube it was suddenly to be found in the end of 2013. But in any case, Nidaan was the trigger for the very fertile cooperation of Mahesh Manjrekar and Sanjay Dutt. Their next joint project was Vaastav, and the rest is history.
Produced by R.V. Pandit; Directed by Mahesh Manjrekar
Watched on YouTube; 145 Min.; information post