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Friday, February 12, 2010

Children of lesser Gods find their voice via Antara and Baa Bahu aur Baby

Rarely in Hindi serials do we get to see characters considered by the ‘normal’ population to be ‘abnormal’ or differently able. At times they do put in an appearance either as fringe characters-the comic relief, the dark shadow hidden behind a curtain of lies. Zee TV’s Aap Ki Antara and Star Plus’ Baa Bahoo Aur Baby are two such brilliant exceptions to the given. For not only do they dare to talk about such characters and make them inhabit the normal world but also have the courage to make them central characters.

Zee TV’s Aap Ki Antara focuses on autism. Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behaviour. It affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize. Antara the lead character of the show suffers from Autism. On top of that she is the illegitimate child of her father. Her father learns of her existence only when her mother passes away. She is then brought in to her father’s house where his wife and son have a difficult time first accepting her existence and then her disease.

However in all her struggles she has a strong support system in her father who refuses to slot her as a ‘problem’; he refuses to hide her from the world or hide her behind a veil of lies and stories. Slowly but surely Antara’s step mother Vidya falls in love with the innocent child and accepts her into her life as a complete individual. In fact she goes on to love and care for her more than her own flesh and blood, her son Abhishek. Antara goes to a school meant for normal children and her parents try relentlessly to find for her acceptance in mainstream society.

Star Plus’s Baa Bahoo aur Baby has Gattu and Baby the two central characters of the show as individuals suffering from learning disability (Gattu) and afflicted by Polio (Baby). Yet they are not shunned by their family members as handicapped individuals. They are treated like any other so called normal character and given hopes, dreams, opinions and even vices. Gattu is the serials conscience while Baby its voice of reason and courage. The story woven around their lives focuses on their trials and tribulations.

Shows like Aap Ki Antara and Baa Bahu aur Baby are path breakers and have done more for the marginalised voices of the differently abled than any other civil platform. It helps us realise that people like Antara, Gattu and Baby are as entitled to their own slice of the blue sky and the brilliant sunshine like any one of us so called ‘normal’ people.

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