Cinema is a powerful medium when it comes to influencing audiences. India is the largest producer of feature films in the world and has a global reach, while the Hindi film industry contributes the largest number of films. Comedy is a genre that’s popular in Bollywood. Unfortunately, good films are hard to come by as most filmmakers, in a desperate attempt, lose sense of what’s funny and what’s offensive. There are gags about people with disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community, while racism, and other sensitive matters are derided. Disability, in particular, has served as a source of comic relief in Bollywood films. Guzaarish, Barfi, My Name Is Khan, Margarita With A Straw, are the few names that have dealt with the subject with sensitivity and quite realistically.
Here are a few Bollywood films that have made an attempt at humour by relying on callous depictions of the differently-abled.
The Golmaal Series
No doubt, Golmaal is the biggest comic blockbuster and it managed to earn hundreds of crores on the box office. However, let’s not forget the Bollywood film is high on apathy when it comes to showcasing disabled characters. Tusshar Kapoor’s character has a speech disability that was supposedly ‘funny,’ while Paresh Rawal and Sushmita Mukherjee, who played an old blind couple, were the butt of many jokes. Insensitive much?
The film has a scene where Salman Khan declares Shah Rukh Khan as his favourite and it was considered to be the film’s whistle-worthy scene (because of their infamous fallout), but the ‘blind girl’ remark ‘Jab woh ladki aankh mein aankh daalke dekhe na, toh andhi ladki bhi patwa de’ was completely uncalled for.
Housefull 3‘s plot revolves around the main characters pretending to be disabled in order to marry the love of their lives. All of the laughs stem from their impairment and that’s definitely problematic. Jackie Shroff, who portrays the father of the three women, refuses to bless his daughters as they chose to marry differently-abled people. Housefull 3 gave a message to openly mock people with disabilities and that they did not have the right to a normal life.
“Meri ek tang nakli hai… main hockey ka bahut acha player tha... ” This recurring monologue is one of the most memorable as well as the most problematic scenes of the film. Mushtaq Khan, who walks with a limp, is placed as a prop to scare people. We may be guilty of finding it hilarious as well, but it’s time we realise the issues with the scene.
Mujhse Shaadi Karogi
Kader Khan’s character is simply in the plot for comic relief. The writers and makers somehow thought it would be entertaining to have a character who ‘chooses’ a new disability every day.
Phir Hera Pheri
Hera Pheri enjoys the status of being one of Bollywood’s best comedies, but that doesn’t mean it’s done tactfully. The script relies on a disability to get people chuckling, where a character named Totla Seth gets his moniker due to his stammer.
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