Monday, November 30, 2009

Group of disabled people in India create a film with an all-disabled production team

From The Times of India:

CHENNAI, India -- Shooting has just been wrapped up in Madurai for the movie Maa', a love story with a difference every single cast and crew member involved in the movie is disabled.

Director Fathima Beevi (pictured) called the shots from her wheelchair. The hero is Deepak TMN, again wheelchair-bound. Cinematographer Rama Rao lost his right leg in an accident. Music director Gideon Karthik is visually challenged. So are most of the playback singers and lyricist Valli, who wrote her thoughts in Tamil Braille.

Devi, costume designer, lost her right hand in an accident, but that didn't stop her from creating every cast member's costume and ironing them daily before the next day's shoot. The choreographer, Amutha Rajini, is afflicted by polio but managed to choreograph a dance involving nearly a hundred physically challenged people. The cooks for the unit, spot boys, drivers& every person involved in the movie is disabled.
"The only people who are not disabled are the two heroines and me because that's part of the story," says Madan Gabriel, professor at the MGR Government Film and Television Institute, and part producer of the movie. The movie is a joint venture Kalai Vizhi between the Tamil Nadu Handicapped Federation (TNHF) and Madan's Art For Change Trust.

"There are two purposes behind the making of this movie," says Deepak, vice-president of TNHF. "We want to highlight the need of the disabled to get representation in policy-making bodies, from the Panchayat to the Parliament, as our basic right and not as charity. We also want to break the stereotype that the disabled cannot make a movie. Of course, there are other embedded messages like the lack of adequate toilets for the disabled," he adds.

The movie begins like most love stories. Girl sees boy in bus and likes him. Then comes the curve ball. She discovers he is physically challenged and her family changes their mind about allowing them to get married. Boy ends up suicidal, but friend tells him to turn his depression into activism. What follows is a montage of how he can fight for the cause of the disabled.

Cast and crew were picked from a talent search that was conducted in June. Movie was shot all through November and is slated for a January 2010 release. "It's a Tamil movie for an international audience," says Madan, who adds that all the prints will have subtitles.

In December, the group will release another documentary on the making of Maa', called Together We create'.

Deepak had this to say when asked whether the movie will make a difference. "All I can tell you is that right after my shoot today, I had to literally get on my hands and crawl into a bus. My new clothes are dirty and I feel miserable. But it's something the disabled face every day of their lives. So I'm definitely hoping for a difference."