The positives of Guzaarish, featuring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Bachchan, is that its craft and direction is spectacular and flawless, the actors are more than convincing and this is the first movie on a spinal injured- a quadriplegic in Indian cinema. The images are real and flawless – the accident, topple from the bed, helplessness at the leaking roof, feeling the fresh air outdoors and many other such images.
A film is both a potent tool for transforming mindsets and can sometimes also don the role of weapons of mass destruction. We need the best in the industry to project and showcase more responsible cinema.
As a person with spinal injury and as the founder of our NGO, Nina Foundation, I would not recommend Guzaarish to my friends with spinal injury. I will elaborate this rationale:
1. It"s a non- Indian take. The biggest motivating factor for a traumatic spinal injured is his ring of FAMILY. The entire family rallies around and forms a ring of support both physical and emotional. The independent living concept shown in the movie with Ethan living with only caretakers and caregivers is remote. More than one member of the family takes charge and enables one to sail through life happily.
2. We have glowing examples of Indian quadriplegics living with this life transforming disability for more than 12 years (the number in Guzaarish). Maj HP S Ahluwalia, Rajendra Johar, Sruti Mohapatra, Subramaniam, Arvind Prabhoo, Nishant Khade, Abdulla and I can go on. They have families, friends and successful careers and goals and are leading successful lives.
3. Disability is an 'untouchable" 'invisible" taboo concept in India. The movie with its ending propagates this very concept. That a human being and his wishes are above the law? A disabled is better off ending his life? Obstacles and problems should taint our view about life? Spinal injury is too big a problem to live with?
4. Our NGO is attempting to create interest, involvement and inspiration amongst friends with spinal injury. Believe me, it's an uphill task. It takes hours and years to convince how to overcome our daily problems and yet lead a life of happiness and dignity. Guzaarish"s depressing tone nullifies that in three hours. Despite being financially independent (Ethan has written a book, has a radio show), he wants to end his life.
5.India is the capital of people with spinal injury, over 15 lakhs and we add 20,000 every year. Most are 'invisible" as they are tucked away at home struggling to manage each day. How many can afford a 10 lakh sip and puff wheelchair or tilt table in our country. The reason for being depressed is that there are no rehabilitation centers offering holistic services to face life. The rehabilitation at physical, psychological, social, vocational, recreational and spiritual levels prepare us to conduct our lives and also achieve a lot personally, professionally and in sports (there is wheelchair tennis, basketball, quad rugby, swimming etc).
6. Along with the helplessness of rain falling on ethan"s face- there could have been more instances of enjoying the 'fly on the nose" moments. Spinal injury is a 'real" tough issue. Its not easy either living with paraplegia or quadriplegia. Yet it is hope which makes us rewrite medical books, push our limits, surprise our doctors and therapists. All the stakeholders work towards giving spunk back to our spines and this is a huge healthcare force. They too are disappointed by the treatment of the subject and ending of the movie.
7. And finally, Mr Bhansali, we don"t need euthanasia or suicides to end our lives in India. Poor management of bed sores, urine infections, bowel complications, osteoporosis, high cost of ventilators and medication, lack of trained attendants and caregivers and lack of world class rehabilitation centers anyway do the job, unfailingly. Even today in Bollywood hub, Mumbai, we don"t have a world class spinal injury rehabilitation centre.
Charity is very easy, sponsoring a few spinal injured is simpler but getting involved with interest and inspiring our friends with spinal injury is the need of the hour. Imagine, our children and young friends with spinal injury watching the movie with their devoted parents and families. The fact is that the very talented Mr Bhansali makes convincing movies on different aspects of disability; we would like positive role models conveying inspiring messages to face that one more day of our lives!
(The writer of this article is the founder of Nina Foundation, an NGO that helps paraplegic patients)