The Only Difference

More Bollywood superstars are spending time and making efforts to bring alive differentlyabled characters on screen

There was a period in Bollywood when differently-abled characters would either poke pity or be used to give overdramatic twists to the plot, endorsing the magnanimity of protagonists. However, in the last decade or two, Hindi cinema has attained a great deal of maturity in presenting disability on screen. Modern filmmakers have successfully changed the way how we look at people with disability. Their sensitive handling of the subject not only introduced us to the world of differently-abled people but also taught us as society to be more inclusive of all kinds of behaviour and physicality.

Hrithik Roshan impressed as quadriplegic in Guzaarish


A part of the credit goes to the actors as much as to the film-makers as they go to any extent to live up to their unusual characters and bring out real essence of disability on screen. From understanding body language, sign skills, behavioural patterns to embracing overall persona of differently-abled people, it takes a lot for the stars to delve into a different world, almost isolated by us. Sometimes, even the look of the character consumes more time and budget than the actual shooting of the film. For instance, Amitabh Bachchan went into transformational drive for Paa. He would take almost five hours every day to become Auro, a 13-year-old child suffering from rare disorder of Progeria, and then additional two hours to remove the makeup. Reports claim almost 10 per cent of the movie’s budget was dedicated to his make-up. The then 67-year-old actor would not even consume anything for hours while dressing up for his character.Kalki Koechlin bagged the national award for playing a girl with cerebral palsy in Margarita With A Straw

Kalki Koechlin has recently bagged the national award for playing a girl with cerebral palsy in Margarita With A Straw. To prepare her character, Koechlin had to take a break of several weeks during which, she also spent time with director Shonali Bose’s cousin Malini, the muse for the protagonist of the film. She told the writer earlier how she would perform daily chores from bathing to desktop work by restricting herself to the wheelchair for most part of the day. In one of her interviews, she said, “I have never worked so long in preparation for a film. In theatre of course, we do rehearsals all the time, but for film, I have never had that kind of time or preparation. So, it’s a great learning curve for me, as an actor because that practice on a daily basis for so long makes it so automatic that in fact when I did the film, I wasn’t thinking about the physicality because it had became a habit. That freed me a lot more to be able to work on the emotions of Laila.”


(Clockwise from top left) Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukherji in Black. Amitabh Bachchan in Paa. Priyanka Chopra, Ranbir Kapoor and Ileana D'Cruz in Barfi!

Superstar Shah Rukh Khan, Bollywood’s king of romance, took the road less travelled in My Name Is Khan. He had to practise for months to get his diction and body language correct to play Rizwan Khan with Asperger’s syndrome. Priyanka Chopra visited multiple mental institutions and worked with autistic people to portray her near perfection role of Jhilmil in Barfi! Some critics recall Anurag Basu’s movie for Chopra’s best performance so far. Her costar Ranbir Kapoor assumed he lost his voice to play his character of deaf and mute Barfi! Kapoor, who assisted Sanjay Leela Bhansali on Black, was already familiar with differentlyabled people who would often visit the sets.

Ranbir Kapoor

Bhansali’s flick Guzaarish was Hrithik Roshan’s ‘most challenging film’ for valid reasons. The heartthrob, known for leanchiselled physique, did the unthinkable by piling on kilos to prepare for his quadriplegic character. Not just this, he remained in bed (Clockwise from top left) Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukherji in Black. Amitabh Bachchan in Paa. Priyanka Chopra, Ranbir Kapoor and Ileana D’Cruz in Barfi! for almost eight hours or more every day to embrace the psyche of a bed-ridden person. By the end of the film, junior Roshan got a waist of 36 inches.

Now we hear he is meeting a lot of blind people to play his visually impaired character in Kaabil. In fact, his co-star Yami Gautam, who’s also a blind woman in the film, is equally preparing hard for her character. Shah Rukh Khan has also accepted the challenge of playing a dwarf in Anand L Rai’s next. The audience may just see the end result but the amount of effort that these actors put into their jobs is really commendable.

Words :-  Karan Bharadwaj

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