Struggle What went into the film’s production? I wanted to tell a positive story and I wanted Jeeja as the narrator, using her on screen and using her speech without any dubbing. I had difficulties convincing people that this would be effective. Then, Ladly Mukhopadhaya, a senior documentarian filmmaker, advised to send the proposal to PSBT. I got the film fellowship grant for Doordarshan and it was really easy! PSBT never put any pressure on me, they gave me complete freedom regarding content and treatment, which was just wonderful. We did the shooting in Delhi, Kolkata and Chinsura (suburban West Bengal). Shooting was tiring for Jeeja, at times she was unwell, but Jeeja being Jeeja was most supportive. IICP, naturally extended wholehearted support to us. Ladly Da kindly agreed to do camera for me and handled all the technical issues. My crew members, were just fabulous. I had a tough time fitting in Jeeja within 28 minutes that we had to accomplish. I faced some personal challenges though when my husband was detected with lung cancer; I had to take time off for his treatment and the film got delayed. Nearly half of India’s disabled population is illiterate. What are your thoughts on the national policies on people with disability in India? The main problem is in the attitude. We have problems in accepting differences. So, as a whole, the society is not inclusive. What we need is access and
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opportunities for all irrespective of physical, cognitive, emotional, social, economic, caste, religion etc. When we construct a building, even a public space, we do not ever think whether PWDs will be able to come in. Our roads, transport, schools, universities, theatres, hotels – nothing is accessible. The school system does not yet allow access to special software and devices. The issue of rights for PWDs is to be looked at in the bigger perspective of human rights issues. When such a large population in the country is still below the poverty line, with little access to education, health and sustainable livelihood, having little scope to exercise their constitutional rights, obviously, national policy and the ACT will only remain as a documents. It needs lots of activism to change attitudes and the social situation. How is disability, in particular, cerebral palsy, treated in Indian films? In India, mainstream films in most cases portray disability either in a negative way or submerged in pity. Feature films lack in real life research and fictional presentation, and are often far away from reality. I don’t want to name films, but some of the popular films fall into this category. In fact, I have rarely seen PWDs in the film industry, either in the capacity of actors or technicians. I think involvement of PWDs and stakeholders can only bring out the real situation, sentiment and perspective in light.
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