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The 'special' effect in Bollywood

More and more films are featuring their lead character as a disabled person.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2006 17:37 IST

Hindi cinema has suddenly become conscious of the physically and psychologically challenged sections of society.

Consider this: In Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black, Rani Mukerji plays a deaf-and-blind girl, Amitabh Bachchan, her tutor in the film, is going blind and also suffers from Alzheimer's disease. A far cry from the way we saw the traditional hero-heroine axis in our films.

"It is a sign of our cinema's maturation that we got to see a hero and heroine who were not romantically involved and who were in different ways impaired physically and emotionally," Amitabh Bachchan said.

In Jahnu Barua's Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara, Anupam Kher suffers from rapid memory degeneration. Daughter Urmila Matondkar's trauma is palpable. Anupam studied the history of Alzheimer's patients before plunging into the part.

In Onir's My Brother Nikhil, Sanjay Suri became our first-ever hero to have AIDS. Earlier, Rajit Kapur played an HIV positive in Ek Alag Mausam while Shilpa Shetty and Salman Khan played the same in Revathy's Phir Milenge.

But it was Suri who gets the credit for playing the first gay hero in mainstream Hindi cinema.

A still from Iqbal. The film highlights the struggle of a deaf and dumb boy who wants to make it to the national cricket team. Newcomer Shreyas Talpade played the lead character and won critical acclaims for his acting skills.

Recalled Suri: "Initially I just wanted to produce the film. We went to a lot of prominent leading men. When all of them baulked at the idea of playing a gay HIV positive character, I had no choice but to come to my own film's rescue."

In filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor's Iqbal, Shreyas Talpade is a young deaf-and-mute wannabe cricketer who becomes a national champ.

Said Nagesh: "We were certainly not inspired by Black. Iqbal doesn't even dwell on the physical deficiencies of the protagonist. It moves ahead of the handicap."

In Siskiyan, Dansh and Rain, the female protagonists are severely traumatised women caught in a web of psychological questions that go back to a rape in their past.

Salman Khan was seen as a severely traumatised patient of Kareena Kapoor in Priyadarshan's Kyon Ki.

That isn't all. There are several forthcoming films where the protagonist is physically or psychologically challenged.

In debutant director Vicky Tejwani's Maratthon, Sammir Dattani will star as a young man with an amputated leg who is determined to participate in and win the Mumbai marathon. In Priyadarshan's next film, Kareena Kapoor plays a deaf and mute girl.

So are films about the psychologically and physically disabled in vogue?

"You really can't make a mental or physical handicap a fashion statement. In Rain, Meghna Naidu who's blind keeps her bosom largely uncovered for the camera. This is physical disability combined with voyeurism! We have to guard against sensationalising sensitive issues," said Hansal Mehta.