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  Life   More Features  28 Dec 2018  One step closer to a different world

One step closer to a different world

THE ASIAN AGE. | PRIYANKA CHANDANI
Published : Dec 28, 2018, 6:19 am IST
Updated : Dec 28, 2018, 6:19 am IST

Zero is the latest one to join the league.

A still from Black movie
 A still from Black movie

A growing inclination in Bollywood to make mainstream films that show differently-abled characters play important roles, rather than be mere distractions, is a welcome shift.

More often than not, Bollywood has been accused of failing to capture the life of a specially-abled person in the true sense. It is also believed that disability is seen as an easy excuse to portray the protagonist as a loser so that the story of triumph can create a sense of euphoria.

Films such as Golmaal, Judaai and Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, portrayed disability in a stereotypical manner or used disabled characters to provide comic relief. In recent years though, there has been a welcome shift. Films like Black, Guzaarish, Taare Zameen Par, Margarita with a Straw and Hitchki, have not only dealt with intellectual and physical disabilities like dyslexia, cerebral palsy and Tourette syndrome with sensitivity and compassion but have also been instrumental in changing the perception of society towards differently-abled people.

Zero is the latest one to join the league. Starring Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma and Katrina Kaif, has Anushka play Aafia, a scientist with cerebral palsy. Aafia is intelligent, compassionate and a winner by any yardstick. The role proved to be most challenging for Anushka, who underwent rigorous training for three months to portray the character correctly. “When you are playing a differently-abled character, that’s a truth you are portraying, and that has to be portrayed very correctly. People don’t know enough; it’s important to responsibly portray this role,” reveals the actress. It was Gulzar’s Koshish in 1972, which opened with credits in sign language that is seen as a landmark film for the portrayal of disability in Bollywood. The film educated the audience that deaf people too can communicate.

In Main Aisa hi Hoon (2005), Ajay Devgan plays a mentally challenged man, spearheading a change in the prevailing terminology that used words like retarded or handicapped for the differently-abled. Another film that was widely appreciated across the world was Taare Zameen Par(2007) that revolved around the life of a 10-year-old dyslexic boy. It brought home the notion that every child should be treated equally. The film led many educational institutions across the country to include dyslexic students in the mainstream.

Director Rohit Shetty who portrayed the mute and blind character in his most successful franchise film Golmaal, is of the view that physically challenged characters should be shown as winners and with a positive frame. “They should be encouraged and considered to be part of us; they have all the ability to work to best of their capacity and it is important to essay them rightly. These days filmmakers are certainly championing it,” says the director, who is also willing to work on such subjects if he comes across a strong script.

On the other hand, Shonali Bose, who directed Margarita with a Straw, a film that portrays the sexual desires and self-discovery journey of a teenager with cerebral palsy, differs. She feels that subjects and characters with different disabilities should be taken more often, without the pressure of them being showing as winners.

“I think to be a winner you just need to show that the person with certain disability is treated with respect and dignity. He should be shown like everybody and not as if he is from some other planet. I think the main idea of such films is to make people comfortable with disabilities,” says the director who was applauded for the portrayal of Laila - played by Kalki Koechlin, differently and positively, believes that such characters need more authenticity in their portrayal. As Aafia is compared with the role of Laila, she feels that characters like Aafia’s require more authenticity in their portrayal since it’s not a disability but a condition.

“If someone is born blind doesn’t mean it’s a disability but a condition. Similarly, if you break your leg, it is not a disability. That is the difference and I think the films should take these things into consideration and portray them in that light,” she asserts. Sonali’s next film The Sky is Pink, starring Priyanka Chopra, Farhan Akhtar and Zaira Wasim, also deals with an illness called Severe Combined Immune Deficiency.

Earlier, it was believed that anybody who has any sort of disability is not even worth portraying. However these days disability is shown positively believes Rummi Seth, the founder of Saksham Trust.

“I have noticed that a lot of films coming out are about people with disability, both intellectual and physical, and all are shown very positively. These films are encouraging disabled people and assuring them that they are part of us and they can do anything. I think it’s a very positive step forward,” she appreciates.

Tags: differently-abled, main aisa hi hoon