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5 Films That Challenged Society’s Misconceptions About Persons With Disabilities

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I’m beautiful in my way, cuz God makes no mistakes. I’m on the right track, baby cuz I was born this way.”

It is totally correct when we say that films are a reflection of our society. This is truly depicted in films like “I Am Sam”, “Bill On His Own”, “Bonds of Love”, “I Never Promised You A Rose Garden”, “The Kid from Nowhere”, “Taare Zameen Par”, “Margarita with a Straw”.

Many believe that persons with intellectual and developmental challenges cannot function in society and are unable to meet the physical or emotional demands of normal life. People believe that they cannot handle the challenges of daily life and are not able to contribute as ‘normal’ people do. These misconceptions have built a stereotype which has taken a strong hold on our minds.

However, modern-day cinema, otherwise used as a tool for entertainment, has tried to change these misconceptions. It has tried to show the true reality of the lives of people with challenges. By destroying the false impressions that so many have, they have shone a light on the possibilities that those with challenges can actualise. They show that persons with challenges are not at all different from us; in fact, they are just the same.

1. The Kid From Nowhere

“The Kid From Nowhere” is a TV movie, which came out in 1982. It portrays a story of a single mother who is overprotective of her intellectually challenged son, denying him a normal social life, which makes him angry. The movie illustrates the struggles that the family must go through every day. However, things start to change when the boy begins to train for a special Olympics, gaining self-esteem in the process. His mother learns finally to let go. The story shifts beautifully from the mother fearing what the society says to becoming proud of her son. The film received a hugely positive reaction from the audience.

2. Bill On His Own

Why do you want to learn?” The teacher asks Bill who is 60 years old. He simply says, “Because if I learn, then I’ll be a regular good man.” The classic Hollywood comedy “Bill on his Own” (1983) is about Bill, an intellectually challenged man who wishes to live freely in the society just like everyone. After many years of living in an institution, Bill is mesmerised by how beautiful the outside world is. With the desire to learn and live independently, Bill starts his journey which brings many challenges and new friends. And during his journey, he meets people who really care for him and love him. The movie received positive reviews as its simple storyline was capable of grabbing the attention of many viewers, helping to change the perceptions they had earlier held.

3. I Am Sam

“I Am Sam” is an American film released in 2001. It showcases the story of Sam, a single father with intellectual disability, who wants to raise his daughter alone after the mother of the child abandoned them. Using emotions as its primary tool, the movie goes through the different phases of the lives of Sam (father) and Lucy (daughter). When Lucy is sent to a foster home, Sam fights for her custody in court. Despite the serious intellectual challenges Sam faces, he proves that he can take care of Lucy independently, and can be a caring father. At the end of several twists and turns, Sam wins custody of his daughter.  The movie shows that how, despite the considerable challenges that he had to face, Sam won the hearts of all and proved that he could also be a part of the society like others. The movie went on to win many awards and opened the eyes of many people.

4. Taare Zameen Par


This Indian drama revolves around Ishaan, an eight-year-old child with dyslexia. Although excellent in arts, young Ishaan is unable to get good grades in academics. With the school making repeated complaints about Ishaan’s distraction, the frustrated father sends him off to a boarding school. Ishaan’s arts teacher at the new school, played by Aamir Khan, suspects that Ishaan has dyslexia and he helps him to deal with his challenges. The story generates a slew of emotions through the story of Ishaan’s life, from when he is misunderstood by his parents to when he becomes accepting of his true self. The movie got universal praise from critics and went on to be one of the top movies of 2007. The movie made a huge impact on people’s assumptions about dyslexia and changed their thinking about it.

5. Margarita With A Straw

“Margarita With A Straw” is a 2014 Bollywood movie centred on the life of Laila who has Cerebral Palsy. Each step and each turn bring difficulties in her life, and the movie shows how she overcomes them through her positive attitude. It depicts the struggle as well as the power that individuals have to meet each challenge. It shows how every person’s desires and needs are the same as everybody else, despite being ‘normal’ or challenged. The movie received critical appraisal all over the globe and won many awards. The colourful story of Laila decodes the struggles faced by people with Cerebral Palsy but also shows how people can be happy despite all the difficulties.

With these movies, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. When people are joining hands to come together for equality, movies like these take giant steps towards equity for people with challenges. Each movie mentioned above shows the different struggles and difficulties that persons with challenges go through every day of their lives. It shows how we, as members of society, create their nightmares for them. These movies represent the fight that these warriors must fight every day to get adjusted and accepted within their own communities.

Playing to the emotions as a primary strategy to win the hearts of people and open the window of their mind, cinema has been an amazing medium of change. What non-governmental organisations, the medical profession and support groups could not do, Hollywood and Bollywood have. Film is so strong a medium that it leaves an impression on humdrum lives forever. With the right direction, it hits its target and moves onwards, ending misconception and making the lives of people with challenges just a little easier.

So, let us take a pledge to end the typecast preconceptions about persons with challenges which has inhabited the minds of the members of society for a lifetime. Let us extend a hand of support to persons with challenges and walk with them towards equality, so that they can also have a chance to live life fully and freely. Remember, even though persons with challenges are not same as others, they are not different from others.

Don’t hide yourself in regret, just love yourself and you’re set on the right way, cuz you were born to be brave and you were born this way.”

About the Author: Karan Yadav is a trainee journalist from India Today Media Institute, currently pursuing Post Graduate Diploma and working as an intern at Amrit Foundation of India

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  1. raj kosaraju

    Excellent and very well said “persons with challenges are not at all different from us; in fact, they are just the same.” With the right direction, it hits its target and moves onwards, ending misconception and making the lives of people with challenges just a little easier.Film is so strong a medium that it leaves an impression on humdrum lives forever. With the right direction, it hits its target and moves onwards, ending misconception and making the lives of people with challenges just a little easier. Another important point is content. You need to have a good story line to bring the film to life.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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