Tollywood mainstream depictions of disability have experienced a welcome transformation, with numerous actors performing differently-abled.
Disability is a theme that hasn’t been explored broadly in Tollywood. Formerly, depictions often made disabled people appear like objects of pity, inaccessible beings disaffected by fate. But social approaches have altered. We currently have a slew of Telugu movies that have incorporated inclusivity for the disabled and are normalising depictions.
From Ravi Teja and Raj Tarun who perform visually-challenged people in their future movies, Raja The Great and Andhagadu to Ram Charan who is rumored to be frolicking a hearing impaired guy in his next movie, or even Nagarjuna who wowed as a wheel-chair bound quadriplegic tycoon in Oopiri movie — these heros are breaking the age-old typecast that a hero wants to be unbeatable.
Directors and writers are even attempting to convey these roles with some degree of honesty and compassion. “A disability doesn’t make an individual less smart or interesting. Ravi Teja’s role is going to be a mixture of both. There was a time when a disabled character was perceived only in art movies or horror cinemas, but we are going totally commercial, with no compromise on the role,” shares Anil Ravipudi, the director of Raja The Great.
But it’s a real fact that these movies are normalizing disability and encouraging inclusivity. “Life on a wheelchair is not so easy but my role still adores life, and that’s the mannerism of a true human. Because of that, I said yes to Oopiri without hesitations,” speaks Nagarjuna.
Ravi Teja expresses his thoughts, saying, “Times are now changing and I intensely believe that we should move away from cants and explore diverse aspects of people live. There are amply of inspiring stories in our society where inversely abled people have left on to do great things. Look at nation’s blind national cricket crew. They have won main tournaments and it’s something we are all pleased of.”
Film maker Sudheer Varma, whose movie Keshava sees Nikhil having a sporadic heart disorder, says, “The role is as hard as any hero would be. But this specific disability aids me to work around the screenplay of the movie. While it’s entirely a director’s probability how he or she wants to explore it, they should not forget the presence of the disabilities and their limits, since that would hamper the depiction.”
These roles have come as a benefit for the disabled themselves. Shravya Kanithi, a communal operations specialist at Uber and also a vocalist, shares, “Cinemas are a huge portent in India and when they depict a person’s identity grounded only on their incapacity, people consider that’s all we are! Previously, I watched a picture where they showed a guy marrying a visually challenged girl as a favour,” she taunts, saying, “I am glad that heroes like Ram Charan and Ravi Teja are taking up roles which aren’t just focused on their weakening, as it will normalize us. I am a singer and people take in it as such a great thing, I occasionally don’t see why. It’s just like anyone else singing.”