- Navneel Maji
‘Disability’ and ‘disabled’ people have been instrumental to the storyline in the Hindi cinemas. If we look at their portrayals, we would immediately have issues with it. We all know that much of mainstream films are not intended to contribute anything good to the society, at least not intended to be so – it’s mainly for the purposes of entertainment. However, it does not matter whether the intention behind the making was noble or not, the output significantly affects millions who watch movies regularly, if not on a daily basis. That has consequences as it influences our behavior in the society. In that sense, in the case of portraying disability, the Hindi cinema has done more harm than good.
First of all, because entertainment decides the commercializing value of the movie, to make it sensational we often use the stereotype of the disabled person. It is always of the two extremes: either it is pitiful, sympathetic, awesomely heroic, or it’s someone discriminated, coping-up, aspirational. It is sad that the lack of realism in it is so far and it is as if it’s they who gets to decide how a disabled person should function.
It gets sadder when the stereotype is designated with words such as ‘andha,’’langda,’’lulla,’etc. In the film Aakhen, they showed three blind men going to rob a bank. Can anything be more ridiculous at their expense? Also, the common perception that is reinforced in all of these is that the disabled are actually helpless. That is they are continuous need of someone or other to save them from the situation. Hrithik’s film ‘Koi Mil Gaya ‘showed same that it had to be an extra-terrestrial to come down to help that person; that we could not create a more humble and tolerant society so let’s some ‘other’ person, but not me, should come down help these helpless. Secondly, why can’t them be simply represented as a normal character just like any other?
However, the situation is not all gloom out here. There have been few filmmakers lately who have come out ‘bollywood closet’ and pushed the envelope of realistic filmmaking. The films like Margarita with a Straw, Black, Taare Zameen Par have changed the perception of how common people viewed people with disability. It is the need of the time that more films such as these are made and not the ones who are merely cashing on the idea of disabling, which would require the certification board to be critical about it before allowing a film through.