Indian Cinema on Embracing Physical Disability

Differently-abled, not disabled is how we should identify them. To be born with a defect is not a sin. Nor does it make them incapable of living a happy life. 

Whenever we see people with disabilities we often develop a pity or may even cringe at them Yes, things may not be easy for them as it is for others but to co-exist with the largely ‘abled’ population requires them to fight social stigmas, and they have been gifted with strength and courage to fight the odds and make their way to a beautiful life. 
That is why we should call them differently-abled.
It is unfortunate that our movies ignored the sensitivity of physical disabilities and used it to add on to the humor of the films. 
What made them think that a deaf, dumb, or stout person could be funny? However, things have taken a different road recently and people with certain difficulties are getting a fair share of representation in Indian cinema.  

Autism is not a disease

Barfi is a special movie for several reasons. Through the female lead Jhilmil(played by Priyanka Chopra) we see and most importantly feel what an autistic person goes through; the humiliation, the ignorance and alienation, we get a glimpse of all that. 

In a scene where Jhilmil dances her heart out as if no one is watching, and her cousin starts to laugh at her, Jhilmil screams- “DON’T LAUGH” Her scream was of desperation, it ached for acceptance, acceptance as a normal person and not as an alien.
Daivathirumakal starring Vikram is yet another soul touching story of an autistic father and his fight for his daughter. This movie is a testament to the innocence that never wipes out in autistic people unlike the remaining population who cultivate hatred in each other’s minds after growing up. 

Krishna is full of love and goodness and seeks nothing in return. The scene where he is thrashed by some goons taking advantage of his physical disability makes us rip our hearts off. 
Ain’t it ironic that this man who is the purest in love is considered insane and dangerous instead of the people who tried to attack him? Well, that’s how this society works, the sanest of all are considered insane.

We probably would not have known about the condition Progeria if not for the Bollywood movie Paa. Progeria is a condition where the body grows old 16 times faster than the usual rate leading to an early death. 

Aurobindo (played by Amitabh Bacchan) is born with progeria and is looked down upon by the people around him. But thanks to his supportive mother who never let anybody treat him differently. 
Auro grows up like any normal kid. His giant old body does scare off people at first but they are shown apologizing to him and becoming friends with him.
It is equally important to pay attention and check on the caretakers of the physically challenged people. Their life is equally difficult. They too face rejections and abuses as much as the physically challenged.
 Amudhavan (played by Mammootty) is a representation of those caretakers. He is not only thrown out of his house with his 14-year-old daughter suffering from spasticity ( a muscular control disorder) but he is also left to struggle alone in raising her. It’s painful to see his journey in taking care of her. 
Even when advised to abandon her, he stays by her with the utmost affection. The title of the movie does total justice to Amudhavan and his daughter – Peranbu(compassion).

 Speech Defect

some difficulties may not be visible but can be heard and felt. Hichki is a film about Naina Mathur, an aspiring teacher suffering from Tourette syndrome. 

Naina is not one of those people who complains about her situation and pities herself. She is confident in her abilities and does not allow the syndrome to build a wall between her career. For a person without any disability, a few rejections can lower the spirits but 
Naina, in spite of being rejected by her syndrome does not lose hope. Her belief in self finally fetches Naina from her dream job.
Jokes on stammering are not uncommon. You and I have all made such jokes or at least laughed at them once in our life disregarding the emotions of the person being humiliated for his stammer. This is exactly what the Malayalam film Su Su Sudhi Valmeekam is about. 
Fear of humiliation and rejection turns Sudhi into an underconfident young lad. From losing all hope in life to becoming a successful and confident banker, we see Sudhi work on his speech defect and gain back his self-respect.
Being born without any physical disability does mean we are perfect or better. It won’t do us any harm to be empathetic and kind to the physically challenged community.   

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