The Plot Twist

The perfect recipe for a romantic tragedy? Girl meets the boy. They fall
in love. Cue – numerous romantic songs shot at picturesque locations.
Enter terminal illness and the boy dies! Yes, a perfect tear jerker is right
here. Who doesn’t love a romantic tragedy to cry to on a late Friday night
with a tub of ice cream? And when you have a huge array of medical
conditions to choose from, the options are endless!
From the retro days of Anand to the contemporary movies like Dear Zindagi, medical conditions have always been a theme in the film
industry. But, instead of just acting as a plot twist and fulfilling the role of
a tearjerker, filmmakers have now started to base the entire storyline on
the medical condition, making it into a central theme. Yes, illnesses give you a perfect, dramatic storyline while also spreading awareness about it. Sounds like a win-win situation? Careful there! Is the film industry portraying the illnesses accurately? Or will this just spread misinformation and end up romanticising the illness? Well, let’s dive into these box-office hits to find out!

TAARE ZAMEEN PAR
A film about children with special needs, it follows the story of Ishaan Awasthi, an 8 year old kid with dyslexia. A misunderstood child, Ishaan’s parents and teachers are quick to label him as “mischievous and lazy” because of his poor school performance and inconsistency in studies. Banished by his father to a boarding school, the film beautifully captures the struggles faced by slow learners in school and day to day life. Being different and unable to cope up with kids his age, Ishaan is not easily accepted by his parents, teachers and classmates. The film is fairly accurate in its portrayal of dyslexia, and gives across the message that every child is special and love, affection and patience is all that a child with disability needs. The film goes slightly “Bollywood” with its happy ending of how Ishaan turns into a topper at the end. Dyslexia though, is a lifelong illness, which can be managed but not completely done away with. A scene with a psychologist handling Ishaan’s case would have proven even better at informing the viewers about the proper way to tackle dyslexia. Nevertheless, the film beautifully portrays the condition and is sure to leave you with happy tears as you watch the transformation of Ishaan from a misunderstood kid to a happy school boy excelling in life!


PAA
Starring Amitabh Bachchan as the son of his real life son Abhishek Bachchan, the movie is about Auro, a teenager with Progeria. Progeria or Hutchinson-Gilford syndrome is a rare genetic condition which causes premature aging with the patients not surviving beyond their teens or
twenties. Auro is a fun loving, witty and sensitive child who is sure to warm your hearts with the memories of your own childhood. Although the movie only uses Progeria as a backdrop for the main storyline; which is Auro’s unique bond with his parents and his quest to reconcile them, it sure steals your heart. Auro’s condition is not shown to be a barrier in his daily life and he is readily accepted by his friends and the society alike.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in real life but the movie tells us that it
sure can be! For brothers Ikramul Khan and Ali Hossain from Bihar,
suffering from progeria, life definitely hasn’t been like Auro’s. Ostracized
by the society, their family finally found relief as Paa brought their
medical condition to fame and an NGO reached out to them for help. Conditions like Progeria are not dreadful just because they cause premature death, but also because the patients in their short while lead lives facing discrimination, rejection and exclusion. Auro lived a short, yet beautiful life with an abundance of love and care. If society can only become this kind in real life, the world can be a happier place. Afterall, “Babumoshai, Zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahi”


DEAR ZINDAGI
A film which seeks to break the taboo that is mental illness, it follows the
life of Kaira, a young cinematographer. We soon realise that Kaira is a commitment phobe and has a rocky relationship with her parents. Forced to move in with her parents after her landlord turns her away, Kaira spends many sleepless nights before deciding to see a psychiatrist- Jehangir Khan aka Jug. As Jug helps Kaira disentangle her frenzied thoughts, the movie unapologetically addresses all the right questions- Why is it acceptable to say that you’re seeing a doctor but not acceptable to say that you’re seeing a mental health specialist? The best part about the film is that Kaira is not
depressed, neither is she hearing voices- she visits a psychiatrist simply
because she is unable to sleep and has been feeling low. It normalises
visiting a psychiatrist. It addresses the habit of society to label every
person who sees a psychiatrist as “crazy” or “mad”. With mental illnesses and suicides on the rise and the ever present stigma towards them, films like this are the need of the hour and Alia Bhatt and Shah Rukh Khan beautifully capture this theme!


MARGARITA WITH A STRAW
A movie about a girl Laila with cerebral palsy, it explores how Laila courses
through life and her many desires all the while dealing with her ineffective motor skills. Laila, studying in Delhi university lands a scholarship to study in New York. As Laila moves to New York, the stark difference between her life in India compared to the States is clearly evident. The movie portrays that the west is more socially inclusive of differently abled people than Indians. Although this may be true to some degree, an important aspect which the movie fails to focus on is how inconsiderate Indian cities are to the differently abled. The civic infrastructure completely neglects the differently abled. The west however, keeps wheelchairs in mind while designing public transport and infrastructure. Although Kalki’s acting accurately captures a girl with lack of muscular control, the movie fails to show the difficulties cerebral palsy patients face in doing normal, daily activities. The movie had the potential to be an eye opener for the able bodied individuals to the life of the differently abled, but sadly chooses to focus more on the drama aspect.

Movies have the power to develop a connection, a bond between the
characters and the viewers in 120 minutes. We see the characters at
their best and their worst and at their most raw, vulnerable and
unapologetic state. We live their lives in those 120 minutes. Watching
the story of a person with a heart rending illness makes us weep with
them, we start empathising with them.
Empathy is the first step towards building an inclusive, accepting society.
And the art of filmmaking, if done right, can captivate the audience and
lead them towards a more inclusive, considerate society.

Misba Sayed, 3rd year MBBS
Grant Government Medical College, Mumbai

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