While audiences have been raving about the movie, the physically disabled community feels the film doesn’t reflect the hardships of their lives.
Barfi!, India’s official entry to the Oscars, a movie about the love story of an autistic girl and a hearing and speech impaired boy, has won many rave reviews and accolades, yet a small community of physically disabled people feels that the real lives of hearing impaired, speech impaired and autistic people are far from being saccharine romance material.
Opinion: No Barfi for the real stars
“The movie was well made, but it has not done any justice in showing us the reality of the millions who suffer with disabilities. On one hand, we have comedy tracks with the hearing and speech impaired characters as comic elements and on the other hand, we have movies like this that soften our view towards disabled people, when all they need is equal, unbiased treatment. Personally, I am not against the movie in any way, but what social outcome it will have after the Oscar nominations is to be seen,” says Jayapradha Reddy, whose son, Surya, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 6.
“Even now, I see people talking about how glorious the romance between the hearing impaired boy and the autistic girl was and not about the plight of the disabled. A fair amount of the proceeds from the movie should be put to use to help the disabled, not as a rule, but for credibility sake,” says Anil Narayanan, a volunteer at an NGO that helps rehabilitate hearing impaired and speech impaired children.
While most are in agreement with the fact that the movie did deserve the honour of being sent to the Oscars, some think making a saccharine-sweet movie will not suffice.
“We don’t need a French-looking Indian movie trying to show us the softer sides of human disability. It has not stimulated the audience into any social awareness. People came out of the theatres commending the look and the experience of the film, but nobody settled for a discussion on physical disabilities. For example, I overheard my neighbour saying that Priyanka Chopra’s “mental role” was very well done. This, among others, was the response,” says Vishwanath Iyer,a copy writer. Vishwanath has been suffering from partial hearing loss since childhood and has been an active member of various community support groups based on rehabilitating the physically disabled.
Also, quite recently, the Persons with Physical Disabilities Act of 1995 was given an overhaul and a new version of this was made public. Although it turned out to be a mixed stash of reservations promoting employment for the disabled and income tax exemptions for people who integrate the disabled into their work, the far end of this version, like integrating disabled children into the normal educational framework, and a biased presumption that all disabled people can function in only limited tasks has rubbed people the wrong way. The ministry of social justice and empowerment is yet to clarify this version of the bill.
Considering the success the film has had, maybe social awareness can only be spread through the beauty that celluloid can deliver. Or perhaps, a bulwark of toothed laws protecting and helping the disabled might just be the answer.
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