Changing Attitude of the Indian Society towards Ageing & Disabled People as Presented in Bollywood Movies
“Tum hi ho Mata, Pita tum hi ho,
Tum hi ho Bandhu, Sakha tum hi ho.”
It is a famous song in the Indian society from ages and in this song, the Almighty God is being compared to father and mother. So such was the attitude of the Indian society towards their parents. Not only parent but earlier there was great respect for other elders including grand-parents, uncle-aunt and any other relative and neighbour. But now the society has seen a tremendous change in the attitude of people towards elders especially ageing people.
With the advent of Globalization, commercialism and professionalism have reached its peak. With this change, the attitude of people towards religion and culture has changed. Now, there is a tremendous change in the life-styles of people. Their ways of living, dressing-sense, eating and even thinking is rapidly changing day by day. Now, life has become so fast especially in the big cities like Metros that nobody has got time for anybody. With this fast paced life, the moral values and human values are also degrading.
We can easily see this in the behaviour and attitudes of the today’s youth. As we see in the present generation there is a degradation of mannerism. Now, the young generation is becoming more and more free, liberal, independent and modern. They have their own thinking and ideologies regarding different aspects of life. The philosophy of existentialism is rapidly increasing in the nature and attitude of today’s youth including students. Now they want to have their own individual freedom, choice and existence. So in the attainment of all this they are even going away from the path of moral values. They are also attaining many evil practices like- cyber crimes, consumerism; instill trust worthiness and many other things. Now the present generation does not want to respect their elders including their teachers.
This can also be easily seen in the Bollywood movies. Films & cinema have become a part of every individual life. It is movies from which mostly people and especially youths are being inspired. It is believed that films & cinema are spoiling the society and now they have become the base of changing culture in the society. But they are the reflections of the society only. Mostly in the Bollywood movies we see that parents are very much loved by the hero and heroine. It is only in some cases and it is often the heroine’s father, who being an evil person, may be an underworld don is hated by the heroine as he does not allow her to marry the hero. There are many examples like- Karan Arjun (1995), Kaho Naa Pyar Hai (2000).
In the movie Bagbaan released in 2003, we see the parent who not fairly treated by their children. A father, (role played by Amitabh Bachchan) who has given his whole life for fulfilling the needs of his children and the mother, (role played by Hema Malini) who has nurtured her children are not being look after by their children. They don’t want to keep them in their houses as they consider it difficult to fulfil their needs. A contract is made between all four brothers to keep either mother or father for 3 months each. Moreover they also don’t like their advice as they consider it to be interference in their privacy and freedom.
This is the reflection of the society as we see now that in this fast changing and commercial world, now nobody has time to sit and talk to elderly people of their own homes rather instead of it they like to go for an outing, movie or any other enjoyment. They are being deprived of love, care and attention of their own children in many houses. Elderly people feel so neglected in their own homes that they become victims of many mental weaknesses and diseases. Sometimes they even try to commit suicide. There are many examples of these types of cases we see and hear in newspaper, magazines and televisions.
Now, we see that many Old Age homes have been made in many cities to look after the old people because they have been neglected by their own children.
As now people don’t like to keep their parents at their houses which are resulting in the increase of many evils in the society like degradation of culture and mannerism, theft, robbery, murders and many other crimes. Parents those who are not able to look after their children properly and being neglected they are sometimes indulge in many mal-practices. Because of this, now there is a rise of juvenile crimes in our country and the society is very badly affected by it. Even children are being themselves victims of many mis-happening like kidnap, rape and murder because there was no body to look after them properly in their own homes.
Earlier our society was considered as a society based on moral values, culture and tradition because young people were always guided by older people, not only of their family but also their society and community. But with the rise of globalization and westernization, everything has changed, which has a bad effect on the society as slowly and slowly moral values, culture and tradition everything is vanishing.
But in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam released in 2001 we see the portrayal of idealistic sons who have great respect for their parents and other elders of the family. There is a depiction of moral and cultural values in the family. In Hum Sath Sath Hai released in 1999, we see an ideal family in which all the family members care and love each other very much. They also gave respect to their elders. The story is quite similar to the great epic, Ramayana.
But these values are rapidly decreasing in today’s youth and now each individual wants to lead an existential life i.e. individual freedom, choice and existence and hence does not want to live in bondages of any kind. He/she does not want to live according to the strict rules & regulations imposed by the elders. So for this purpose they like to live separately from their elders. As now, we see that the joint family system is slowly and slowly vanishing from the society and giving way to nuclear family system. Married couple does not want to bear the responsibility of their parent’s and don’t want to live according to their wishes. The increasing commercialization had led to the rise of materialism and the demand of money. So to lead a prosperous life, it is necessary that both the husband and wife should work. And sometimes for better option they leave their parent’s homes to establish themselves in big cities. Moreover, the un-married youth, also want to live a free and liberal life and so for this purpose they prefer to live in hostel instead of their own homes.
Suryavansham, a 1999 Hindi drama by legendry hero Amitabh Bachchan is a sensitive movie regarding the relationship of father-mother, their son and daughter-in-law. Amitabh Bachchan playing the dual role of father and son is supported by Jayasudha, Soundarya, Rachana Banerjee, Anupam Kher and Kader Khan. Although the movie didn’t do well on financial ground but it is highly praised for its storyline and lyrics. The movie is a story common Indian family, where priority is given to the esteem of the family. As an average Indian story, it is exemplary depiction of the liabilities of a responsible father with a son who is dutiful, wife who is virtuous and the family unified by psychological bonds.
So there are very fine examples of Bollywood movies dealing with the ageing issue from the beginning of its history till now and many more to come in the near future.
Disability, another weakness of humanity is accepted in a different way in an Indian society. In the Indian mythology, it is believed that anybody who has possessed any kind of disability is because of the evil deeds of his previous birth for which he/she has been punished. It is cursed for which he has to suffer. So the Indian attitudes to disability is two forms of mythology: the traditional Hindu myths which still play an important role in shaping social norms and values, and the “modern myth machine” of Bollywood, which has impacts on popular culture and society.
In Hindu mythology, the portrayal of people with disabilities is overwhelmingly negative, but also exhibits a strong gender bias in terms of the perceived capacities of disabled men and women. Disabled men in the Hindu myths are in some cases powerful and capable people. We can see the example of the visually impaired king Dritarashtra and the orthopedically impaired Shakuni, are the representative of the forces of evil in the Mahabharata war. Such people were although powerful but evil and cruel disabled men.
There is another image being reinforced by historical figures such as Taimur Lang. In contrast, women with disabilities in Hindu mythology are simply irrelevant. A prime example comes in a story from the Karthik Poornima, where Lord Vishnu refuses to marry the disfigured elder sister of Lakshmi, saying that there is no place for disabled people in heaven. The sister is instead married to a peepul tree.
In Bollywood films there are several common images of disabled men and women. There are some common features of portrayal of disabled men and women in the cinema. Firstly, the disabilities of hero or heroine are typically acquired after birth rather than congenital, “normalizing” the actor somewhat. Equally, the disability is quite often cured during the course of the film. In addition, the stars are often from better-off socio-economic strata, with resources to promote their integration, though they remain often dependent on others.
Apart from these similarities, there are also gender differences in perceptions of disabled people in Bollywood movies. First, men with disabilities feature far more often than women with disabilities. Second, men with disabilities are often loved by a devoted woman without disabilities (as in Saajan released in 1991), whereas women with disabilities are rarely loved by men without disabilities (and in cases where they are such as Mann, the men loved them before the onset of disability). Third, women with disabilities almost never attain economic self-sufficiency. While male stars with disabilities may not be very wealthy, they can attain such independence. Finally, the disabilities that women are portrayed with are very rarely ones that impact their physical appearance, so that they largely remain beautiful. Overall, women with disabilities in India cinema are doubly weak – women and women with disabilities. This contrasts to more frequent portrayals in Hollywood cinema of women with disabilities who have strength and discover independence.
The movie, Vivah released in 2006 is an example where we see a physically affected woman being accepted by the hero. The story is that two young people, the role played by Shahid Kapoor and Amrita Rao who are engaged have developed liking for each other. Unfortunately a misfortune occurs before the wedding and the girl is caught in the fire. Although she is saved but her body is burnt including face. But the hero, who is shown to be an ideal man, accepts her with her flaws.
However, it is also a fact that many films have sought to enhance the sensitivity of society towards the needs, rights, sensibilities and potential of people with disabilities. Dosti, being produce under Rajashri Production’s was released in 1964. The movie is a best illustration of leading characters dependency due to disability. We see the friendship of two friends, in which one is lamb and the other one is blind. But being good singer and noble men are being loved by many people. Another example of fine illustration of leading characters depending due to dependency is Gulzar’s Koshish released in 1972. It is a highly sensitive movie focusing on deaf-mute couple, a classic role played by sensitive actors Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bachchan. Gifted with disabilities they are leading a secluded life but facing the outer world with their courage and determination. Sparsh released in 1984 by Sai Paranjpe is a poignant film on this issue. It is different from previous movies as it depicts the conflicts between disabled with those of able-bodied. Based on conflicts it highlights various complexes and issues related with the mental approaches and sensitivity of able-bodied and disabled people. Naseerudin Shah, the leading character of the movie is a blind man. He is the centre of all the activities. A performance very well played by him giving a prolific touch to the film.
Gujarish released in 2010 is a highly sensitive movie, revealing the story of a physically handicapped hero who was earlier a painter but now is willing to die because of his disabled plight. He asks mercy from his government to allow him to commit suicide or to kill him but is not granted. In Koi Mil Gaya (2003), the mentally handicap hero is being loved by a beautiful girl. Some other examples are; Jagriti, Main Aisa hi hoon, to name few.
Lagaan is an excellent example of a mainstream film that has highlighted the process of inclusion of a Dalit disabled person. Released in 2001, it is about land tax during the times of Britishers. In the absence of opportunities for interaction between people with disabilities and society at large, such films have played an important role in highlighting aspects of the lives of people with disabilities that are not clearly understood and in dispelling myths and biases that society holds about them. Films such as those noted have also demonstrated the attempt of non-disabled people to understand people with disabilities.
So disability has been portrayed in Hindi movies from the beginning but recently commercial movies have started a trend and that is focusing on some rare diseases which are in form of disability. There are many new diseases explored by Bollywood in the movies and the role of victims being played by leading stars and superstars like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and others. Through this they are also creating awareness among the masses for those diseases which are not known to masses. The best part of these movies is that they don’t show the disable person to be a poor mean creature rather a strong individual. So they teach us not to sympathises with them but treat them with love, care and affection.
Sanjay Leela Bansali released Black in 2005 which is considered as a historic film focusing on a deaf-mute and blind girl played by actress Rani Mukherjee. She is also suffering from a brain disorder causing senility named as ‘Alzhemeir.’ Earlier Sanjay Leela Bhansali directed Khamoshi-The Musical (1996) which is also based on the theme of disability. Starring Salman Khan, Manisha Koirala, and the role of disable parents of Heroine is being played by Nana Patekar and Seema Biswas. The movie as the name suggests is musical in nature with music in its background. The movie tells the story of deaf and dumb parent who inspire their daughter to make her career in music. So it is a movie based on disabilities of parents being dependent on their children.
Khamoshi was not as successful as is Black because of its intensity and passion. Rani Mukherjee named as Michelle McNally acted very immensely the role of a blind, deaf and mute girl who is a high spirited girl. In her childhood she was inflicted by an illness resulting in her plight for lifetime. The title of the movie Black symbolises the life of Michelle which is dark as she lives without sight, sound and words to speak. She is shrinking in her dark world and is not able to breathe properly until a teacher named as Debraj Sahay played by Amitabh Bachchan comes in her life and makes a difference by moulding her personality. He teaches her the meaning of words and how to express them. By the influence of her teacher, Michelle develops a sense of pride to live as a strong individual by deciding to graduate from college. But there are many hurdles in her life- she has to face the world which has a different perception to deal with disable person; even her teacher becomes mentally disturbed. Michelle being firm in her decision pursues her goal facing all challenges and narrates her story of victory.
Taare Zameen Par which was released in 2007, directed and acted both by Aamir Khan is a phenomenal film. Being very successful at box office it has highlighted a disease named as ‘dyslexia’ which is found in children. In the movie, there is an eight year old boy, played by Darsheel Safary who is suffering from this disease. It is an important film of the deade focusing an eight year old child who is suffering from ‘dyslexia.’ The child suffering from this disease has difficulty with learning, decoding the word, spelling, reading accurately and fluently. The movie teaches the parents to understand the problem of their children and try to remove them. It also gives a strong message that ‘every child is special’ and if they are not academically good then they can be good in other field. So there is a need to understand their talent and give them right direction. Aamir Khan starring Ghajni released soon after Taare Zameen Par in 2008 depicts the character of a person who after injury has develops a disorder named as Amnesia which means ‘short-term memory loss. As depicted in the movie, amnesia is a forgetful film with a short memory span for just few minutes.
In the same year in 2008, U Me Aur Hum starring Ajay Devgan was released. The movie focuses on a disease which is not so known by people, ‘Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a mental disorder named after German physician Alois Alzheimer. As a progressive and fatal brain disease it is still not curable. It is irreversible disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking power leading to the loss of ability to do even simplest tasks.
Paa, is a remarkable film released in 2009, it will always be remembered for the performance of Amitabh Bachchan. The movie is all about a child who is suffering from a rarest disease, ‘Progenia.’ It is a very uncommon and terrible disease which ages the body many more times faster than normal leaving teens with frail bodies of people nearing 100 years old while not damaging the intelligence of the person. So it is an accelerated aging disease which is found rare. But the most dangerous thing is that the child experiencing the disease has life expectancy from 10 years to 23 years. Amitabh Bachchan is playing the part of the boy, Auro who is suffering from progeria. He is a 12 years old intelligent and witty boy but suffering from this genetic disorder. His mental level is of his age but physically he five times older.
Auro is a cheerful boy, very much loved by his mother who is a gynaecologist, the role played by Vidya Balan. Amol Arte, a politician is his father who has left his mother before his birth. He a cold blooded politician is on a mission to prove the world that ‘politics’ is a bad word. Amol is unknown that Auro is his son because of the concealment by Vidya. They both met in the school when Amol visited and took him to Delhi to see the President’s house. Auro knowing about his father want to unite him with his mother. Though Vidya still feels hurts but for Auro’s sake she forgives Amol, who is happy to have his wife and son in his life. When Auro reaches his 13th birthday, his health deteriorates as his physical health catching up. He being successful in his attempt to unite his parents, succumbing to his disease says his last words, “Maa” and “Paa” before dying with smile on his face.
My Name is Khan which was released in 2010 starring Shah Rukh Khan is considered as a milestone in the Indian film industry for the theme as well as acting of the hero who is suffering from a disease named as Asperger’s Syndrome (asperger). It is a neurobiological disorder, a kind of autism illness. The person suffering from this disorder finds it very difficult to interact socially. He/she has a normal intelligence and language development, but exhibits autistic-like behaviour and their lack in social and communication skills is clearly visible.
Anurag Basu’s ‘Barfi’which was released in September 2012 is remarkable film on disabilities of two persons. Actors Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra have played the lead role in it. The movie is believed to change the perception about the abilities of the disabled in the Hindi cinema as earlier for mainstream cinema it was difficult to seamlessly integrate the differently-abled into its plotline. The main character of the movie is Barfi who is deaf and dumb but still he enjoy every moment of his life with smile on his face whatever the situation is. Though he works around in imperfections but he takes everything as it is. He falls in love with a girl named Shruti, a role played by Illeana D’Cruz. She too falls in love with him because of his innocence, mischievous and happy go lucky self. Although loving him so much she marries somebody else because of the pressure of family and society. Though being failing in love, he begins his life in a new way by giving chance to autistic girl named as Jhilmil Chaterjee (Priyanka Chopra) to enter into his life. He is able to understand the girl and thus a bond is developed between the two.
Disability has been depicted in different ways in different movies. While some have shown disability as dependence, others have not. So we can say that films are also inspiring and working for the upliftment of the disabled people. There are many NGOs who are working for betterment of old and disabled people. Some NGOs are organizing training workshops for people with disabilities on film making, and conducted sensitization sessions with Indian scriptwriters and film-makers. They are also seeking financial support to establish a national disability film and communication centre which would conduct research on portrayal of disabled people in film and media, develop an archive of films on disability issues, sensitize film makers, journalists and other media people, and directly support film makers, in particular disabled film-makers, through availability of basic equipment and studio facilities.
But being human it is also our moral duty to love, respect and give proper care and attention to the old and disabled people whether in our family or in neighbourhood.
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