A Reflection of Life: Contemporary Cinema and Persons with Challenges

 May 1, 2018 | Karan Yadav

“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 when we see movies like ‘I am Sam’, ‘Bill on his Own’,‘Bonds of Love’, ‘I Never Promised You ARose Garden’, ‘The Kid from Nowhere’, ‘Tare 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 minds. However modern day cinema,otherwise used as a tool for entertainment, has tried to change these misconceptions, showing 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 actualize. With only small efforts from us, they show that persons with challenges can be not at all different from us, in fact, they are just the same.

THE KID FROM NOWHEREis 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 and difficult. The movie illustrates the struggles that a family must go through every day. However things start to change when the boy began to train for Special Olympics, gaining self-esteem in the process and his mother learning finally, to let go. The story travelled 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.

BILL ON HIS OWN, “Why do you want to learn?” when the teacher asked Bill (60 years old) he simply said “Because if I learn, then I’ll be a regular good man.” The classic Hollywood comedy ‘Bill on his Own’ (1983) is a story about Bill, who is an intellectually challenged man who wishes to live freely in the society just like everyone. After many years living in an institution, Bill is mesmerized by how beautiful the outside world is. With the desire to learn and live independently, Bill starts his journey of many challenges and new friends. And along this journey, he meets people who really care and love him. The movie met positive reviews as its simple story-line was capable to grab the attention of many viewers, helping to change the perceptions they had earlier held.

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. With emotions as the prime tool taken by the director, 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, Sam won the hearts of all and proved that he can also be a part of the society as normally as others. The movie went to win many awards and opened the eyes of many people.

TAARE ZAMEEN PAR is a 2007 Indian drama, revolves around Ishaan, an 8 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, the role 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 as it travels through Ishaan’s life, from when he is misunderstood by his parents, to being accepting of his true self. The movie got universal praise from the critics and went on being one of the top movies of 2007. The movie made a huge impact on people’s assumptions on dyslexia and changed their thinking about it.

MARGARITA WITH A STRAW is a 2014 Bollywood movie which centres on the life of Laila who has Cerebral Palsy. Each step, each turn brings 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 describes 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. Ina time in which 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 organizations, the medical profession and support groups could not do, Hollywood and Bollywood have done. Film is a medium so strong, it leaves an impression on humdrum lives forever. With the right direction, it hits its target and moves on wards, ending misconception and making the lives of PwC just a little easier.

So let us take a pledge and move to end the typecast preconceptions about persons with challenges which has inhabited the minds of members of society – us – 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 on the right way, cuz you were born to be brave and you are 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.



  1. Vaidehi Subramani May 1, 2018 - 4:05 pm

    Very nice. Film, is a big medium to create the awarrness and acceptance of such difficult situations. I wish many more films be produced to change the mindset of the people or attempt to change , if not transform. An inclusive society is a must. Congrats for nicely writing this article. God bless you. Vaidehi Subramani

  2. subrat narayan mishra May 1, 2018 - 4:41 pm

    Everybody losses inaccordance to practice conversation by both side trying to be a gainer again and again. Thanking u.

  3. krithika May 1, 2018 - 5:03 pm

    These words rightly said and are so TRUE!!!!…………CANT AGREE MORE
    What non-governmental organizations, the medical profession and support groups could not do, Hollywood and Bollywood have done. Film is a medium so strong, it leaves an impression on humdrum lives forever. With the right direction, it hits its target and moves on wards, ending misconception and making the lives of PwC just a little easier.

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