When I am growing up.. I never knew the different gender balances. Their dominant or predominant roles… the subtlety of life.. Was everything unknown to me.. I was born and brought up in big family of many cousins and like a rajshri productions movie…the house is always with some marriage preparations or talks about marriage. I was blissful in my own world of books, cousins, friends, my grandmother and little little errands we all do.
Now…according to Bollywood style… you cut the scene here and forward to some 20 years and now I am married and happy, gained an experience as Disability and Social care worker.
Two Incidents jolted me back to an Unknown reality…
The Incident No.1:
A casual remark of a close cousin months ago, what she said…?” she said to my husband “Glad she is married… We always felt guilty when one by one we are getting married and so happy with families and in married bliss…she is not married..! Sometimes we used feel guilty to be in intimacy with our husbands in presence of her. NO… Friends… don’t take me wrong…She loves me a lot… It’s just the Indian Mentality of unexplained guilty about things which they are not reason for..
Well.. it made me think about the outsiders perception about the disability..What they think heart in hearts about a Person with Disability their desires, sensuality or for that matter sexuality. Are parents guilty about their own son/daughter with Disability? Or they just see them like a person with no desires or needs for a physical nature? Do they treat them asexual? Or they feel their sexual desires or understanding is limited?
The Incident No.2:
I get two disturbing calls from two different cities…from a Woman who is very close to me… and from a man total stranger to me.. !
Call from Woman: She is a polio victim. She says her assistive device maker is harassing her by saying.. to be in a relationship with him. This lady is educated and that caliper/assistive device maker is not that much education or culture. He is married with two children. His reason for proposal of affair to the women.. Because she is DISABLED and HE HAS SEEN IN MANY HINDI MOVIES THAT.. A DISABLED DON’T GET A SUITOR SO WHY NOT HIM??
That woman is in tears… “I don’t know what to say and how to get him out of the hang that all disabled woman are not sex starved or relationship starved… I don’t want this harassment..!” That complaint went to police…she handled that deftly that’s another issue.. But she was in anguish.. Is this the way people treat and think about us..? Do they care for our heart??
Call from Man: He is a disabled person with a good decent job. Married a normal girl after talking to her about his mobility problems and all, how the life would be. But post marriage and post a child. She feels what a big sacrifice she did to marry a disabled.. She treats him with foul language cursing his disability.. Why this fellow is never like a hero of her dreams..? he says her fascination for movies I can understand..but how can I be like a hero now..? I can counsel her but what tore my heart is her saying that.. “ A disabled should marry a disabled.. Why you want normal?? See in movies all the time.. a disabled marries either another disabled or widow or women lost in love..!! why you have come for me??” for that no one has an answer than giving a patient hearing..
These things made me realize the impact our films have in the minds of many men and women of this country.. who has to handle relationships, have children..Rise the next generation.
I gave it a thought and watched films on or about Disability… a Gist of some path breaking movies dealing on Disability..
The movie revolves around a deaf mute, sensitively portrayed by Jaya Bhadhuri and Sanjeev Kumar. Both the characters have same disability.. I remember when I first watched in theatre..after the movie finished and people leaving seats in awe about the artistic performances of the actors.. head a person saying.. “Thank god..! Their son is normal..!! “Like lightning everyone nodding their heads in muted agreement. I just wondered…about the fact that how much the normal world treats Disability as burden. Well.. in this film one thing was sealed I guess.. A DISABLED DEAF, MUTE HAS TO MARRY ANOTHER WITH SAME DISABILITY..
Its proven to my dismay, after some years when I am working with deaf, mute community, we were teaching the basic accounting skills. Some are learning candle making. It’s a group of 30 more women and less men. We took break after work.. in casual chat they said.. (sorry thru sign language and interpreter sometimes) ..A deaf mute have to be married to another one with same disability.. if they marry normal persons, they may use them or kill them.. they made me remember some south Indian movies where the love of deaf mute girl and normal man failed like acclaimed director bala chander’s Kokilamma (telugu) and Koshish (hindi). Their conclusion…” when same disability people marry they understand.. Relationship is workable… that’s what movies also says..”
Sparsh (1980) :
The film portrays the relationship between a blind man and a widow. It gave much importance to the pride and stubbornness in the blind man to accept any help.. let alone a relationship. Still the female protagonist persists for a relationship by making him understand the subtleties of relationships. By far a sensitive portrayal. But I always wonder about the options available to men than women in India… if such NO was given by a woman with disability… I feel hardly anyone turns around again to patiently explain things or wait on them till the love strikes around and they come around…!!
From far away memory I recalled… when I saw movie “sparsh” in theatre..Someone from behind the seats..Commenting…. “Why this Andha saying NO to a women like shabana (the heroine in the movie).. Must be gone mad..!! To this his friend replies.. Andha hai na..Dekh nahi saktha.. (Blind fellow… can’t see..!) This is how they see a person with disability and his world..? the memory that tucked back and zipped safe came back.
Andha Yudh (1987):
A terrorist hero hides in a disabled girl’s home and keeps her as hostage for his life. Slowly falls for her., more out of pity and availability than merits. But at least a disabled woman is capable of decent talk, friendship and courtship is shown to some extent.
A fine portrayal of parental fear when the parents are disabled. Most able-bodied parents treat their disabled daughters (mostly)/sons as not worthy of marriage or relationship. They have no option to outside world then fleeing it. In this, the female normal girl tries to convince her deaf mute parents. Many drastic turns have to happen to convince the father, that his normal girl has equal right to marry and have babies. One angle of this is stubbornness of the disabled father; another is the FEAR/HOPELESSNESS/REJECTION feelings that were there in a silent world.
Main Aisa Hi Hoon (2005):
a woman on drugs and disturbed past came into life of a man with Development Disability. Desperately gives birth to a baby and disappears. He later finds himself in a custody battle initiated by the child’s grandfather on the plea that this man is not competent enough to take care of a child due to his disability. Some things I learned from this.. still adoption rules in the country following similar rulings.. A DISABLED MAN/WOMAN IS NOT COMPETENT TO ADOPT.. and another thing this movie recognized DEVELOPMENT DISABILITIES as a segment and some voice… But long way to go bollywood!!
The story of a Blind and Deaf Girl and her relationship with her teacher, friend and guide, an elderly gentleman. This movie rises a bit in showing the female protagonist’s desire for physical and intimate relationship, when she asks her teacher to kiss her. He does. But later guilt struck him and he leaves her forever. But later when the teacher falls sick of memory loss, this blind student nurtures him like a wife,sister, nurse and care giver.
A blind girl falls in love with a tourist guide and has consenting sex with him. Bollywood took a bold step of showing their love making scenes at least a woman expressing herself. The D (Disability) Factor comes when the guy is guilty of sleeping with her. So he FANAA’S her ( fanaa means Annihilation.. we are clueless whether he annihilates her or her disability.. ) The present day scenarios post this kind of movies… Normal men or disabled men… they want woman with disability as friend, lover, sexual partner, colleague, sister, Nurse, Care giver, etc… BUT NOT AS WIFE…Why… he annihilates the negative image of disability.
Guzaarish deals with euthanasia (mercy killing) post spinal cord injury and disability of male protagonist played by Hrithik Roshan. Though, such popular hero playing a helpless spinal cord injury patient, the director has taken all the precautions to take care of his grand design and beauty than portraying helpless physical conditions of a disabled man. Not to blame anyone… Euthanasia is a wrong signal that can be sent to persons with severe disabilities. The male lead in the film proposes the female lead in the film, his care giver played by another Global icon Aishwarya rai bachchan. She agrees and he dies in love (with the help of nurse lover pulling the plug.. as they say!(. Might be that’s what many men with disabilities also think… complains normal/disabled woman I counsel.. men with disability don’t say whether they love us or not, they want to connect with us, but never utter that mantra, how can we TRUST a person either abled or disabled.. who cares for only himself and his EGO? The woman says.. Do you have answer?. Showing the disabled persons as either comic bafoons or highly egoistical is not a welcome sign in country where reportedly 15% of country’s population is disabled
a flop film that shows love and consenting sex between a disabled girl and able-bodied man. Their relationship is understood as rape by female lead’s relatives and the hero is charged of committing rape. It shows society’s protective nature (?) or a disabled persons desire for sex, love, family and eventually children?
Well… now… friends… I feel heavy after keloidoscoping path-breaking still not myth-braking films from 1970’s to 2011..
The perception of disability changed to some extent. Bollywood interested in finding new diseases and new disabilities like Aspegers Syndrome (MY name is Khan), Progeria ( Paa) ( to the extent they find it cute..!)
I have met many film scholars here and in abroad, when we are traveling in a subway tram in New York, a student approached me seeing the india-ness so plainly written over my face. She is an American research scholar doing research on Bollywood and its woman characters. Looking at me and my companion.. She said… “I like Bollywood really… India respects woman and disabled.. very spiritual..” I didn’t correct her understanding/confusion about India or Bollywood (momentary patriotism..ha ha )
But I feel Bollywood being the countries prime film industry, should really see the challenge to face the reality of physical challenges. Its about balancing everything.. WHO IS NORMAL ANYWAY… MAKE THE DREAMS WITH REALITY AND POSITIVISM TO SELL IN UNKNOWN MARKETS.. TOWARDS A GREATER AWERENESS.. THAT SHOULD BE THE USP OF BOLLYWOOD!! I AM SURE MANY WOULD AGREE ABOUT SHRIEK FROM DISABILITY SECTOR TO BE HEART IN RIGHT WAY… DON’T MAKE A SHRIEK INTO MUSIC WHERE PEOPLE DON’T UNDERSTAND THE SERIOUSNESS OF IT..!
Many Disability Experts expressed their Anguish on some of the issues cited above..Some Suggested Readings in this:
Reel Life’s Physically Challenged by Paresh C Palicha: http://www.hindu.com/mp/2003/12/01/stories/2003120100780100.htm
I am Single Because of My Body by Malini Chib: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-09-20/man-woman/30179999_1_disabled-people-disabled-activists-disabled-women
Physically Challenged or Sexually Challenged?? By Abha Khetarpal: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/health/Physically-challenged-or-sexually-challenged/articleshow/10978609.cms
Sai Padma ://IPR All Rights Reserved.