Michelle, her body twisted with helpless longing, asks her teacher, “Will you kiss me, please?” His age does not matter to her. He is the only man who she has known at such proximity, the one who has taught her – a blind, deaf, mute girl – to understand words by feeling them on her hands and through those tortured breaths that throw up disjointed sounds when fingers touch her mouth.
Her life may be the colour of a moonless night, as Sanjay Leela Bhansali has shown so brilliantly in the film Black, but within her the storms have shades and layers that she is trying to grope with. “Will you kiss me, please?” she pleads with the one man who understands her suffocation. He turns his face away only to return his gaze and see her bundled up in the chair, knowing that no man will give her physical love ever. He holds her and gently brushes his lips against hers. Next morning he disappears. As she says later, “He gave me the respect of a woman, but felt too ashamed of his act…”
She internalises her gratitude, tapping away on a Braille typewriter, a sound she does not hear, and smiles with lips that she herself cannot see. She can only feel the denial, the weight of holding back…
This was my opinion on the film that I had written about. My views were based on hands-on experience with people with disability. As I wrote then…
During a demonstration on one White Cane Day, I had joined the group. The local corporator and another politician asked some of us to come along to Jogger’s park. It was around and dark. While the rest of the lot were huddled in conversation, Arpan Singh and I decided to take a stroll on the mud-track. I was wearing heels so I had to tread carefully. To Arpan all walking places were the same, and darkness and light made no difference.
Suddenly, he stretched out his arm and touched a leaf. “There is so much greenery here,” he said. In the dark I, the sighted, could not see any greens. “It is wet,” his voice trailed off as he ran his hands over the foliage. We reached the low wall and sat for a while. He was swaying gently as one would to the music of the swelling tides as he inhaled the scent of flowers of the night. I did not wish to interrupt his reverie, but when his face broke into a smile, I told him that the waves and the fragrance were indeed overpowering and soothing.
“No,” he said. “I have been thinking about those wet leaves.”
The touch of night-dew had not left him.
- - -
It is disturbing to see Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan battling it out about the sensitivities of such cellulouid portrayal. Both are smart businessmen, and Aamir has a film based on children and their needs due for release, his first directorial venture. It is disgusting to rake this issue up now only to tell us that he is sensitive. And just in case they don’t know most people with disabilities are treated in a horrible manner.
Here is what the two actors have to say about the film…
Aamir Khan: “I didn't like the film. I found it very insensitive, it sends out very wrong signals. It was extremely manipulative…Most importantly, it was about a child who had these problems, an alcoholic person comes and says you have to leave her alone with me for forty days, and he slaps her around. I don't know of any parent who'd agree to that. Black reminded me of The Taming Of The Shrew, and I found that very disturbing. It was a film about 'I can teach a bear how to dance’.''
Amitabh Bachchan, who won a National Award for his work in Black:''If Aamir is unhappy with this, let him demonstrate otherwise. I would be keen and anxious to educate myself on any prospective change that he might introduce to cinema. With due respect, all the films that he features in and that I have had the great pleasure in watching, have all adhered to the very qualities that he dislikes in Black. From using the distinct handicap, or to be politically correct, challenged condition, of a crippled human in his cricket team in Lagaan, to the 'sensitivities' of a blind girl in Fanaa.”