Onir[1] is an Indian film and TV director, editor, screenwriter and producer. He is best known for his film My Brother…Nikhil, based on the life of Dominic d'Souza,[2] starring Sanjay Suri. Nikhil was one of the first mainstream Hindi films to deal with AIDS and same-sex relationships.

Onir in 2016.jpg
Onir at the KASHISH Queer Festival in 2016
Born (1969-04-30) 30 April 1969 (age 50)[1]
Samchi, Bhutan
OccupationFilm director, film producer, film editor, screenwriter
Years active2005–present

Onir won the National Award for his film I Am.[3] He has won 13 total film awards. His next film Shab was released in 2017, starring Raveena Tandon.[4]

Life and careerEdit

Early lifeEdit

Onir was born as Anirban Dhar in Samchi, Bhutan. His father Aparesh Dhar and mother Manjushree are of Bengali origin. Onir spent much of his childhood going to the cinema.[5] When he was young, Onir's farher resigned from his position as a school principal when his Nepalese students were removed, arrested, and later found dead. This led to the family moving to Kolkata.[6]

In Kolkata, Onir studied comparative literature and took a few film classes at Chitrabani film school.[7] He graduated from Jadavpur University in 1989, but left before getting his post-graduate degree when he received a scholarship to study film editing at SFB/TTC in Berlin. He later returned to India and worked as an editor, scriptwriter, art director, music album producer and song/music video director.

Early careerEdit

In 1992 Onir directed and produced his first documentary film, Fallen Hero based on painter Bijan Choudhury's life.[8] He also served as an assistant to Kalpana Lajmi on Daman: A Victim of Marital Violence (2001) where he had his first experience directing a full-length feature film.[9]

While working on a documentary about Dominic D'Souza, a champion swimmer and AIDS patient in Goa, Onir conceived the idea for his first film.[7][10] His directorial debut My Brother... Nikhil (2005) starring co-producer Sanjay Suri and actress Juhi Chawla deals with the Goan government's harsh treatment of AIDS patients in the 1980s and the stigma attached to them.[11] My Brother... Nikhil was screened at several international film festivals, and Juhi Chawla received an IIFA nomination for her role as the main character's supportive sister. The film was screened at over 40 international film festivals,[citation needed] and won the Audience Choice Awards in Milan, LGBT film festival, Best Film & Jury Audience Choice Award at Montreal, image+nation Film Festival amongst others.[12]

In 2006 he released his second film Bas Ek Pal with Urmila Matondkar, Sanjay Suri and Jimmy Shergill. He received a nomination for the Best Director Critic's Award at the Global Indian Film Awards for the film. This film was not a financial success, only collecting 15–20 percent at the box office.[13] His next film Sorry Bhai! also failed to do well as it released the week of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.[14]

Critical acclaimEdit

Onir's eighth film was I Am, which consists of four short films exploring such themes as single motherhood, displacement, child abuse and same-sex relationships.[15][16] I Am won the National Award in two categories; Best Film and Best Lyrics.[citation needed] It was also the winnerof I-VIEW 2010s Engendered Award (New York) for Outstanding Contribution.[17]

Onir was awarded the 2008/9 Triangle Media Group Honorary Award on 7 February 2010, and won Best Film awards at both the London Asian Film Festival and the River to River. Florence Indian Film Festival. He won the IRDS film awards for Best Director for Social Concern.[18][19][20][21]

Recent workEdit

Together with Sanjay Suri, Onir started Anticlock Films, a production company that will concentrate on promoting young directors. So far Anticlock has promoted people such as Ashwini Malik (Kill Chhabra) and Bikas Ranjan Mishra who directed Chauranga, which was released on Netflix India.[9][22][23] He also worked on Raising the Bar - an Indo-Australian documentary about six youth with Down syndrome, which won the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Award.[24]

Onir recently completed his fifth directional film titled Shab (The Night), which is currently in post-production. Shab is scheduled to release in the first quarter of 2017. It is co-produced by Juspreet Singh Walia and Pong. Onir is also starting on his sixth directional film titled Veda.

In 2017, a short film "Aaba" (Grandfather) that he co-produced premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival.[25]

Personal lifeEdit

Onir has one younger brother, Abhishek Dhar. Abhishek Dhar is a theoretical physicist at International Centre for Theoretical Sciences, TIFR Bangalore, adjunct faculty at Raman Research Institute and winner of the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology.[6][26] Onir's sister Irene Dhar Malik is a film and television editor.[27]

Onir is an atheist. He can speak Bengali, Russian, German and Tamil. His favourite film directors are Ritwik Ghatak, Satyajit Ray, Luis Buñuel and Andrei Tarkovsky[28] while he cites Shyam Benegal's Junoon as the reason he became a filmmaker.[29] He is also one of the few openly gay directors in Bollywood.[30]


Year Film Director Producer Writer Editor Notes
2001 Rahul Yes
2001 Daman: A Victim of Marital Violence Yes
2003 Fun 2shh: Dudes In the 10th Century Yes
2003 Bhoot Yes
2005 My Brother... Nikhil Yes Yes Yes Yes
2006 Bas Ek Pal Yes Yes
2008 Sorry Bhai! Yes Yes
2011 I Am Yes Yes Yes Yes Won National Award for Best Hindi Feature Film 2011
2015 Chauranga Yes
2016 Raising the Bar Yes Yes Documentary
2017 Shab Yes Yes Yes Yes
2018 Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz Yes

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Film Award Category Result
2005 My Brother…Nikhil Montreal (Image+ Nation film festival) Best Film (Jury) Won
Best Film (Audience) Won
The Saathi Rainbow Film Awards , Kolkatta Best Director Won
TMG Global Awards Best Director/Producer Won
2006 20th Milan International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival Best Film (Audience) Won
2011 I Am National Award Best Hindi Feature Film Won
Jagran Film Festival Best Director Won
London Asian Film Festival Best Film Won
IFFK 2010 NETPAC Award - Best in Asian Cinema Won
Special Mention – International Jury Won
KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival Best Narrative Feature Won
River to River Film Festival, Florence, 2010 Best Film (Audience) Won
I-VIEW, 2010 Engendered Award for Outstanding Contribution Won


  1. ^ a b "(ONIR) ANIRBAN DHAR". Indian Film and Television Directors' Association. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  2. ^ Ferrão, R. Benedito. "My Friend... Dominic". Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  3. ^ "'I Am' is the first gay film to win national award". Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  4. ^ "Check out Kareena Kapoor Khan in these ads directed by Onir". Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  5. ^ Anandan, S. (19 December 2010). "He holds a mirror up to Indian society". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  6. ^ a b Deepak, Sunil (27 March 2011). "Interview with Onir at the River to River. He and his family shifted back to India around 1991 because of the political unrest in Bhutan. Florence Indian Film Festival". Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  7. ^ a b "How Onir made Karan Johar cry!". Rediff. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  8. ^ "I Am From Calcutta - The Telegraph". The Telegraph. Calcutta, India. 27 April 2011. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  9. ^ a b Pereira, Priyanka (28 April 2010). "Seriously speaking". Indian Express. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  10. ^ Roy, Sandeep. "Ripples of Change in Indian Film". AlterNet. Pacific News Service. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  11. ^ Sengupta, Somoni (6 April 2005). "Gay-Themed Film Tests Sensibilities in India". New York Times. Retrieved 27 August 2009.
  12. ^ "ONIR| Queer Ink". Queer Ink. 12 August 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  13. ^ "Here's a look at what the BO booed". CNN-IBN. 16 September 2006. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  14. ^ "Oye Lucky! performs better than Sorry Bhai! amidst crisis". Businessofcinema.com. 2 December 2008. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  15. ^ "Onir's next ventures into issues of gay sex, child abuse". Indian Express. 12 August 2009. Retrieved 27 August 2009.
  16. ^ Mendes, AC. (2018). “Indie crowdfunded narratives of commercial surrogacy, or the contested bodies of neoliberalism: Onir’s “I Am Afia” and Arpita Kumar’s Sita”. Ashvin Devasundaram (org.), Indian Cinema Beyond Bollywood: The New Independent Cinema Revolution. Routledge, 78-99. ISBN 978-0-815-36860-1.
  17. ^ "News18.com: CNN-News18 Breaking News India, Latest News Headlines, Live News Updates". News18.
  18. ^ "Onir's I AM awarded Best Film in London Asian Film festival". IBN Live. PTI. 4 April 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  19. ^ "Rahul Wows Florence". The Times of India. 15 December 2010.
  20. ^ "IRDS Awards: Vidya Balan wins best actress for THE DIRTY PICTURE – Yahoo!". My.entertainment.yahoo.com. 17 January 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  21. ^ Kotwani, Hiren (22 June 2010). "Mira Nair to help Onir release I Am in US, Europe". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  22. ^ Dasgupta, Priyanka (8 October 2011). "We'll shoot in Jharkhand: Onir, Sanjay Suri". Times of India. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  23. ^ "Chauranga is now on Netflix! : Indian Cinema". 1 July 2016. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  24. ^ "Onir wins an award for indo-australian documentary". New Indian Express. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  25. ^ Singh, Rajesh Kumar (16 January 2017). "Short Film AABA to premiere at Berlin International Film Festival". Bollywood Trade. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  26. ^ "hatnagar award for six from Bangalore". Deccan Herald. DH News Service. 26 September 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  27. ^ "Irene Dhar Malik". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  28. ^ "Every film has a message-Onir". One India.com. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  29. ^ "'I Pretend To Have Seen Rang De Basanti'". Tehelka. 23 May 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  30. ^ Kumar, Sunaina (2 April 2011). "I Am, India's first truly indie film, gets ready for the Friday test". Tehelka. Retrieved 9 April 2011.

External linksEdit