With Barfi! being nominated as India’s official entry to Oscars, films featuring characters who are differently-abled are once again in the spotlight. We take a look at some such films which made us laugh and cry and left a deep impact on our hearts.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s critically acclaimed film Black, which was loosely based on a 1962 Hollywood film The Miracle Worker, was a high point in the careers of Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee who played the lead roles in the film. The film revolves around the lives of a blind and deaf girl Michelle (Rani Mukherjee) and her teacher Debraj (Amitabh Bachchan), who gives her hope and confidence to overcome all odds in her life. Many years later, Debraj develops Alzheimer’s which eventually claims his life. The film went on to win two National Awards and a record 11 Filmfare Awards. Richard Corliss of Time Magazine included the film in his list of Best Films of 2005.
Nagesh Kukunoor’s Iqbal was the least unexpected hit of 2005 and went on to become the highest grossing low budget film of the year. The film gained acclaim for its thematic sensitivity – overcoming disability – as well as brilliant performances by its cast. In addition, Iqbal won the National Film Award for Best Film on Other Social Issues. Iqbal tells the story of a small time farmer’s son Iqbal (Shreyas Talpade), a deaf and mute boy, who dreams of playing cricket for India. Tutored by an alcoholic ex-player (Naseerudin Shah), Iqbal overcomes his physical challenges, and competes against the local star performer to emerge winner. Iqbal is considered one of Bollywood’s most inspiring movies of recent times. And with good reason.
Taare Zameen Par (2007)
Aamir Khan couldn’t have asked for a better directorial debut than this. The central theme of the film revolves around how parents fail to recognize dyslexia in children and blame them for not following simple instructions. Ishaan (Darsheel Safary) faces the ire of his father and teachers at school for failing all his exams and he’s sent to a boarding school which further makes his life miserable. The fact that he suffers from dyslexia doesn’t surface until Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Aamir Khan), the new arts teacher recognizes the problem and teaches him a way to express his emotions. It’s a complete tearjerker which hit all the right emotional chords. Taare Zameen Par was nominated as India’s official entry to Oscars in 2008.
Abhishek’s maiden production venture, Paa not only won Amitabh Bachchan the national award and Vidya Balyan a Filmfare but also a warm reception from Indian audiences and critics alike. Auro (Big B) plays the 13 year old with a rare genetic condition known as progeria which accelerates aging while interestingly the role of his father is essayed by Abhishek Bachchan as Amol, a young cut-throat politician. The film follows the trials and tribulations of the happy-go-lucky child who looks five times his age while also exploring the father and son’s delicate relationship.
My Name is Khan (2010)
The most expensive movie of that year, Karan Johar’s My Name is Khan became one of the most talked about movies even before its release thanks to (i) its politically controversial theme and (ii) the return of K Jo’s original couple Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol. While the film raked in a lot of moolah at the box office, it received less than warm reception from Indian audiences. SRK plays Rizwan Khan, a man with aspergers syndrome who loses his step son to a racial attack in the US post 9/11. Then, he journeys ala Gump to go to the US President and declare that his name is Khan and he is not a terrorist.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s debut film Khamoshi dabbled with the relationship between Joseph (Nana Patekar), Flavy (Seema Biswas), a deaf and mute couple, and their daughter Annie (Manisha Koirala) who’s born without any disabilities. She loves music, but her life is shattered after the death of her brother. It’s only when she meets Raj (Salman Khan) that she recovers from the trauma and starts to live a normal life. Nana Patekar got rave reviews for his role; however, the film failed to click at box office, although it went on to win several awards and made Sanjay Leela Bhansali a director to watch out for in Bollywood.
Deiva Thirumagal (2011)
Vikram’s penchant to take up challenging roles resulted in him playing the role of a mentally challenged person in AL Vijay’s Deiva Thirumagal. Loosely inspired from I Am Sam, Krishna (Vikram) is attached to his daughter Nila (Baby Sara), who’s eventually separated from him by Krishna’s father-in-law. The rest of the story is about how a lawyer Anuradha (Anushka) fights for the custody of Nila on behalf of Krishna in the court. The film’s climax scene in the court room was a master stroke, which reduced a lot of us to tears. The film won rave reviews, especially for Vikram and Sara’s performances and it went on to win several awards in Tamil Nadu.
Swathi Muthyam (1986)
Kamal Haasan’s metamorphosis as an autistic person in K Vishwanath’s Swathi Muthyam is proof enough of why he’s rated among the finest actors in Indian cinema. Sivayya (Kamal Haasan) is a simpleton who lives with his grandmother. One day he shocks everyone by marrying Lalitha (Radhika), a young widow who lives in the same village and they are forced to move to the city to escape the wrath of the village for breaking norms. It’s a classic in every aspect, but Kamal Haasan’s performance and K Vishwanath’s direction stand out the most. Swathi Muthyam was India’s official entry to Oscars in 1986 and it’s the only Telugu film so far to be sent to Oscars.