Bollywood is a culture for most of the people in this country and this culture is on more occasions than one, problematic. It doesn’t to be stressed how stereotypes on colour, states and even disabilities have existed in B-town’s ‘family-oriented’ films.

From Tusshar Kapoor’s speech disability in the Golmaal franchise to mocking portrayals of disabilities in Sajid Khan films, differently-abled people have been used as laughing stock in Bollywood flicks.

One might argue that these are just ‘no brainer’ entertainers for the masses and hence, shouldn’t be taken seriously. However, this very argument is why we should be concerned with such portrayals. If the masses are just taught to sympathise or chuckle at the plight of the disabled, then the struggle for equality is really taking a step back.

Dr Atanu Mohipatra remarks, “Portrayal of disability in films swings primarily between two extremes –pity, fun, caricaturing, sympathy, and awesome heroism are at one end of the spectrum while discrimination, coping-up, emotional swings and aspirations of the human soul are at the other end.”

Still, with a new wave of cinema all over the country, the picture is slightly getting better. Filmmakers are focusing on representing more physical and mental disorders and disabilities. Dyslexia has become a term that more and more Indian people know now because of Aamir Khan’s Taare Zameen Par.

Barfi has a deaf protagonist. Shah Rukh portrays a man with Asperger’s in Karan Johar’s My Name is Khan (a director with otherwise quite a share of problematic content). Black has its Helen Keller-Anne Sullivan types relationship between Rani Mukherji and Amitabh Bacchan. While the arthouse scene in India already has had sensitive and well-researched content on disabilities (Margharita with a Straw being a recent example), the movies mentioned before should be considered too as they are made to appeal to the mainstream.

Again, the perspective of a differently-abled person from a non-disabled person might differ on matters. The critically acclaimed film Haider has the lead character avenge the death of his father by killing his uncle. At the end, when his uncle is caught in an explosion and loses his legs, Haider doesn’t kill him. He just leaves him to drag his own body and it’s assumed that the uncle suffers a torturous death.

Here again, matters get complex as there are high chances that writer Vishal Bhardwaj meant no offence to amputees and wanted to put this end as a part where the antagonist gets what he deserves. But then, an acquaintance of mine on further viewing found this to be a little insensitive as if the scene tells us that losing one’s legs is worse than death. There is no coherent solution but such questions to analyse films do show that attitudes can change.

As Riddhi Satti, a member of Glass Eye, the film society of Gargi College concludes it well, ‘The rise of representation of disabilities in movies is nice but then it depends on the content. It should be sensitive and should not romanticise disabilities at the same time and should basically cover how it’s important it is for us to normalise disabilities…’.


Featured Image Credits- IMDB

Shaurya Singh Thapa

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A visually impaired M.Phil. aspirant, named Vaibhav Shukla could not sit for the entrance exam on Wednesday after he missed his train at Unnao when the people in the coach reserved for people with disabilities did not open the door for him.

The student had opted to travel by the Gorakhdham Express and accordingly reached Unnao station. However, when he went to the coach reserved for the disabled, he found the doors locked.

The people inside the train compartment did not open the door, despite the driver asking them to. Since the stoppage was only for two minutes, Shukla could not make it to the second coach for the disabled that was at the other end of the train. He ended up missing the train.

Once in Delhi, Shukla who is 100% visually impaired told the Delhi University authorities about his plight, but the varsity officials said that they could not do anything now.

In response to the incident, the Delhi High Court said there were “special needs of every nature of disability which the railways have to take into consideration” and asked the Centre the types of provisions that were in place currently. It also asked the authorities to file a disability-wise status report in the next ten days.

Additionally, a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar initiated a public interest litigation (PIL) on the event, asking DU to reconsider its stance by 11 July and see whether they can give Shukla a chance to appear in the examination. The bench also brought up the point of compensation for Shukla and just action against the abled people who were misusing the reserved compartment on the day.

This incident not only highlights the insensitivity of people towards the disabled and the presence of arbitrary rules, but also questions the logic of placing the two coaches for the disabled at extreme ends of the train. In the past there have been similar instances where people hijack the reserved coaches. The government should take cognisance of this and appoint a guard to open the compartment doors at stations.


Feature Image Credits: The Times of India

Niharika Dabral
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Delhi University’s Equal Opportunity Cell (EOC) runs three short-term courses for differently abled students, primarily for the students of the University apart from giving fee waivers for students from marginalised sections.

The University has received approximately 1700 applications for merit-based undergraduate courses by students with physical, intellectual, or behavioural disabilities. The University provides a reservation of upto 5% in admissions and 4% in employment for them as per the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.

The EOC strives to make the lives of these students hassle-free by providing short term courses with a duration of 3-6 months on Sign Language Interpretation, Communicative English, and Information and Computer Technology. The courses take place at the DU-NTPC Centre at the Faculty of Arts. Stories from students’ experiences at DU bear testimony to the work done by the EOC in this direction. “We are not treated as students with special needs. Rather, we are made independent. Sometimes I forget that I am blind because I can handle everything just like any other person,” says Vijay Tiwari, a student with disability pursuing his Masters degree from the University.

As a step towards recognising the need for strict legislative policies, accessible support technology, and skills development in uplifting the differently abled, the University has started providing smartphones and smart canes to visually impaired students through the government of India’s Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase/Fitting of Aids/Appliances (ADIP) scheme. The students have also been provided with laptops installed with softwares that would enable them to record lectures and study them in PDF format later.


Feature Image Credits: DU Beat

Priyal Mahtta
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