'Oscar is for thousands of cleft-lipped Pinkis'

The plastic surgeon who operated on Pinki Sonkar, the protagonist of Smile Pinki which has bagged the best short documentary Oscar.
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Updated on Feb 23, 2009 04:32 PM IST
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IANS | ByKulsum Mustafa, Lucknow

The plastic surgeon who operated on Pinki Sonkar, the protagonist of Smile Pinki which has bagged the best short documentary Oscar, Monday said the award is for thousands of little cleft-lipped girls like her who are waiting to emerge out of anonymity.

"This award is not just for Pinki but for the thousands of Pinkis who are waiting to emerge out of a life of anonymity," Subodh Kumar Singh, who performed corrective surgery on the village girl, told IANS from Los Angeles.

Varanasi-based Singh has accompanied Pinki and her father Rajender Sonkar - who hail from Rampur Dabai village in Uttar Pradesh's Mirzapur district - to the Oscars and was speaking immediately after the ceremony.

The 39-minute documentary has been made by American filmmaker Megan Mylan for Smile Train, an international organisation that does free surgeries for cleft-lip patients all over the world. There are 4.7 million cleft-lip children in the developing world who need this surgery. One million of these live in India.

"One out of 700 in India is a cleft-lip patient. There are 35,000 new cleft-lip cases every year in the country," explained Singh, happy that the Oscar nomination has brought to fore the plight of cleft-lip patients forced to lead a life of neglect and disrespect.

The documentary with sub-titles in English has captured in camera Pinki before and during her one-hour surgery showing a completely transformed girl, who is today happy and confident.

Pinki's family has five children, including her. Pinki's birth in this poor family right from the beginning was a source of great humiliation for the entire family. Villagers had called Pinki's cleft-lip deformity a curse on the family.

A jubilant Singh said they would return to India Wednesday and he was looking forward to his work with "renewed vigour and enthusiasm."

The credit for selecting Pinki as the protagonist of the film goes to Singh. He has deep affection for Pinki, who was once a depressed girl and an introvert suffering from an inferiority complex due to her facial deformity.

The doctor had chosen her for this documentary because he found her face "beautiful" except for the cleft-lip. He knew it would require just 45 minutes of his labour to restore her complete beauty and he knew his scalpel had the power to do so.

Reconciled to her fate of living on the fringes, for Pinki the film was a technicolour delight. The surgery brought forth a metamorphosis in Pinki, who was six years old at that time. Today she is a normal child and above all she smiles - something she had not done for a long time.

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