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Disability and its stigmatization in “Taare Zameen Par”

In the movie Taare Zameen Par we see how disability is given negative connotations. A key example we have of this is when Raj Shankar Nikumbh (Amir Khan) approaches Ishaan’s parents and tells them that their child has dyslexia, his father is not ready to accept that Ishaan has a problem. In fact he jumps to a very pessimistic conclusion which is reflected through his dialogue:

“Aap kia kehna chah rahe hain? mera bacha mentally retarded hai?”

Then on another occasion we see that when some of the teachers at the boarding school are sitting in the staff room, one of them refers to the special children at Tulip School as “abnormal” and “mentally retarded”. He even tells Ram Shankar Nikumbh that he can experiment with his teaching methods all he likes at that school because those children are not capable of achieving anything in life anyway. Such degrading remarks reflect the negative stereotypes that surround such individuals.

These ideas can also be connected to what Rebecca Mallett quotes in her reading on disability criticism:

A cripple is still a man, but, as it were, on a smaller scale. His totality is diminished, his image is distorted. He is not whole.’ (Battye, 1966) ‘The cripple is the creature who has been deprived of his ability to create a self.’ (Kriegel, 1987, p. 33)

Thus it can be said while Ishaan may not be physically handicapped, his learning disabilities cause him to be underestimated and he is not considered worthy of deserving the affection that is shown to normally functioning children. This eventually results in him feeling so isolated that he stops expressing his creativity through painting and becomes very quiet.

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