Did Bollywood evolve in portraying disability?

“Meri Ek tang nakli hai... main hockey ka bahut acha player tha.....” and that’s how Bollywood made fun of disability, being differently-abled has been portrayed n a lot of ways throughout Hindi cinema. If we hold a rough timeline, it has been used and abused for all the wrong reasons. While the differently-abled already suffer a lot, we’ve made them suffer even more by portraying them insensitively. Broadly they can be seen in 2 categories. First comic relief like where Tusshar Kapoor is playing mute in Golmaal and that is funny at one point, I’m equally guilty of laughing in the scene when they dress up as blind people and play Black black. Category 2 “Pity and punishment”. As per this characters becomes disabled for their sins like if they’ve done something wrong, nature will punish them with disability. The biggest iconic example is Thakur in Sholay where they chopped off his arms in return. He chopped off his hand instead of killing him. In such movies they are indirectly showing living with a disability is worst than death.

A similar thing happened in Haider where shahid takes revenge on KK Menon’s character by letting him live with the disability. In koi mil Gaya, Hrithik’s character was first bullied and befriended out of pity. Now you might say that it’s just a movie, look it like that but movies have a tendency to impact the way you talk the way you act, and the way you treat sections of society. If you’ll not treat it sensibly in the movies then there are very high possibilities that society will also not take these things seriously. You can debate saying that movies are based on the way society acts but society also acts on the basis of what is portrayed in movies. It’s a 2 way straight. Before you all bash me in comments, I’m not saying that disability is only portrayed badly. Just like everything else, there have been exceptions here as well. It’s now that we have started valuing the stories.

In 2007 when Taare Zameen par released that was a substantial turning point for Hindi cinema, before that we were not even aware of something very common like dyslexia and that is the power of cinema. Slowly but surely these all movies made it to mainstream cinema. My name is Khan treated Asperger’s syndrome very sensibly and that too was made by Karan Johar, the most mainstream director ever and it starred Shahrukh Khan, the face of the masses so it was bound to raise awareness. Paa showed us the human side of progeria by casting the biggest celebrity this country has ever seen, Amitabh Bachchan. It showed that you could make a hilarious movie without actually making fun of the differently-abled. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzarish had a quadriplegic person as a protagonist and that is one of the most heartwarming movies I have ever watched.

Margarita with a straw very brilliantly explodes the sexuality of people suffering. This concept was actually mind-blowing because when we think about such issues we majorly get stuck on the societal and psychological struggles that our brain doesn’t go to their sexuality. Then comes Hritik Roshan’s Kabil. Even though it’s not the best example of portraying blindness, the best thing about this movie was rarely a blind character given the role of protagonist in a Masala action movie. In a way, you could say this was a very weird take on inclusivity. Same for movies like Hichhki, black, barfi, and You, me aur hum, I’m sure there are lots of examples I’m missing and that is the beauty that now we have plenty of examples.

Moreover, all big names were involved in these movies that naturally created awareness. Bollywood might have started off with a bad note when portrayed differently-abled but now we are going in the right direction. Like our elders used to say “dair aaye durust aaye”. let me know what you think in the comments below.