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Barfi! to Margarita With a Straw, Films That Portrayed Disability With Sensibility Through Main Characters

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Anurag Basu’s critically acclaimed film Barfi! completed 9 years on Tuesday, September 14. With a star cast of Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and Ileana D’Cruz, who made her Bollywood debut with the film, Barfi! managed to gather love from audiences and critics alike. Apart from the laughter dose, and strong performances from Ranbir and Priyanka, who shed their star personality to fit in the roles of a deaf and dumb guy and an autistic girl, respectively, the film also stands out due to the way they portrayed disability. With the main characters being specially abled, the film showed having a happy or a normal life is not always restricted to be being physically perfect.

On the film’s 9th anniversary, we look back at some of the other films that, too, did not treat disability as a subject of mockery or a stamp of weakness.


Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 2005 film Black takes inspiration from Helen Keller and her autobiography The Story of My Life. It centers around a deaf and blind woman (Rani Mukherji) who with the help of her teacher Debraj (Amitabh Bachchan) learns to communicate better. Despite his harsh ways, in the beginning, the two forms a bond and Debraj’s lessons help her become a more expressive woman. Several years later, he develops Alzheimer’s disease and forgets who the woman is, and this forms an endearing climax of the film.

Taare Zameen Par

Taare Zameen Par is a film, that upon its release was considered as an eye-opener for parents and teachers who unload huge burdens on kids and consider them as failures when they are not able to live up to their standards. Revolving around a dyslexic kid Ishaan (Darsheel Safary), whose problem is considered to be his laziness, the film has Aamir Khan as the teacher who helps him overcome his hurdles and lend him a hand of support when he is left to deal on his own in a boarding school.


One of Shreyas Talpade’s earliest films and one of the most remarkable performances of his career, Iqbal saw the actor get into the skin of a cricket-obsessed deaf-mute boy from a remote Indian village who dreams of playing for the Indian national cricket team. Iqbal bagged the National Film Award for Best Film on Other Social Issues.


Naseeruddin Shah plays a blind man who is the principal of a blind school and Shabana Azmi is a sighted teacher in Sparsh (Touch). When the two visually impaired people fall in love, they struggle to leave behind their shortcomings and maintain their loving relationship. The film subtly revolves around the sense of touch or ‘sparsh’ that blind people rely on. The film walked home with several National Film Awards including the Best Actor for Naseeruddin Shah.

Margarita with a Straw

Margarita with a Straw deal with two very important subjects- LGBTQ and disability. The protagonist of the film played by Kalki Koechlin is a teenager with cerebral palsy who relocates to America for her education, where she comes across a blind girl (Sayani Gupta). The coming of age drama is based on them coming in terms with their identity and sexuality while dealing with self-acceptance.

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