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My Hindu Friend Movie Review: It Is A Very Strange Film

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My Hindu Friend

Movie: My Hindu Friend

Starring  Willem Dafoe,Maria Fernanda Candido

Directed  by Hector Babenco

Rating: **(2 stars)

My Hindu Friend Movie Review: Brazil’s  most  celebrated  filmmaker Hector Babenco passed away in 2016  . This film chronicling his last years as he battled cancer and  the ensuing self-questionings, originally released in  2015, has now been re-released across  the world.

I wonder  if  My Hindu Friend (original title Meu Amigo Hindu) serves any purpose  besides  reminding us of how tactile,erotic and  ruthless Hector Babenco’s cinema  was when  it come to outing its protagonist for a moral-spiritual  scrutiny.  The chameleon actor Willem Dafoe plays a Babenco-like film director Diego whose terminal illness has spread along with his  egoistic attitude to  life and  relationships, and he has reached an emotional  impasse with his  girlfriend. He dumps her and is quickly  seen mating with an enchantress who is chanting what she  thinks are Sanskrit shlokas.

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The mumbojumbo aura never  leaves  the narrative as we follow Diego and his ego into the hospital where he  undergoes a bone-marrow transplant, the donor being his  own  brother whom he hasn’t spoken  to for years. Babenco  takes us  right through the medical  procedure giving us details of Diego’s bowel and urine status that we would rather not know.

This is  an extremely cruel film,  forcing the audience  to  face Diego’s mortality much in the same way that a child  forces his  parent to stay awake because it can’t sleep. There is  a sadistic streak in the  utterly gloomy  storytelling, punctured by bouts  of  hallucinations where we see Diego conversing with a man a suit and with a briefcase who is  the equivalent of  Yama . The God of death and  Diego  converse over chess while the audience is supposed to patiently try to ferret out some  existential  relevance to two hours  of idle  chatter over death, sex and betrayal.

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Diego’s patient and devoted wife (played by  the beautiful Brazilian bombshell Maria Fernanda Candido) is treated like trash by the  genius-filmmaker.So are  his brother and others associated with him.He catches his wife pleasuring herself  because he can’t. Diego rushes  to a prostitute for  sexual  authentication. He still can’t. The film ends with his new  bombshell dancing erotically in the rain for no seeming reason except it makes for a stunning visual.

At one  point  Diego’s  mother is clearly heard telling her son she never liked him. Can’t blame  her. Diego comes across as a  churlish,selfabsorbed, unrelenting  jerk whom I wouldn’t miss after death  if I knew him.

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Why is  the film called My Hindu Friend?  There is just a brief episode in  the hospital where Diego befriends an ill 8-year old boy whose  ‘Hindu’ father is dressed like  a wedding guest clothed by Manish Malhotra.Father strikes tandav poses while son is  dying.Make sense  of it , and let me know.

One hopes the  film served a cathartic purpose in  the late and great Hector Babenco’s life. It does  nothing for  the audience.