Director Bejoy Nambiar, who is gearing up for his Amitabh Bachchan-Farhan Akhtar-starrer Wazir , has apologised for ‘hurting sentiments, if any’ after Disability rights activist Javed Abidi condemned his remarks on “limiting” Amitabh’s persona in a wheelchair. Disabled Rights Group (DRG) on Tuesday demanded an apology for Nambiar’s “disparaging” statement wherein he spoke about Amitabh’s portrayal as a paralysed chess grandmaster.
Nambiar had said: “Right from the beginning, we knew that the protagonist had to be on a wheelchair. Casting Mr. Bachchan, who has got such a strong persona, and limiting him in a wheelchair, was a big task for us to get used to.” This spelt trouble for Nambiar when DRG on Tuesday issued a statement that his comments are “disparaging and extremely condescending towards people with disabilities, and highlights complete lack of knowledge, extremely archaic and derogatory perspectives that he has on disability”.
The team of Wazir -- Nambiar, as well as the film’s co-writers Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Abhijat Joshi -- has apologised, but also clarified that “no malice” was ever intended. Nambiar said, “I have no clue (about the issue)...that’s the character he’s (Amitabh is) playing... what is so wrong in what I’m saying?”
Joshi said, “Absolutely nothing offensive was meant, that can be assured. There’s not one percent malice towards anyone”, while Chopra said: “How can he have malice? Our character is that (paralysed). Amitabh Bachchan is playing that. We don’t mean malice.” Chopra, who is also a producer of the movie, said they “apologise if somebody’s sentiments are hurt”.
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Meanwhile, reacting to Nambiar’s comments, Amitabh Bachchan said at an event, “I do not think it was limiting... It was exciting to be doing a role that I had not done before... The approach to the character was dictated by the director.”
DRG’s convenor Javed Abidi, a wheelchair user for over 30 years, had said that he was “extremely shocked to read Nambiar’s statement”, which reflected a “regressive image of a person with disability in his mind”. He expressed hope that “no matter what, from now onwards and upto the release of the film and beyond, in all the publicity and promotion of the movie, acute care must be taken that this kind of derogatory language is not used ever again”.
Wazir, which also stars Aditi Rao Hydari and John Abraham, is revenge saga and a thriller. It is scheduled to hit theatres on Friday.