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Star Vijay faces heat for airing serial promo that is insensitive towards disabled people

September 28, 2018

Popular Tamil channel Star Vijay is getting some criticism from many in the disabled community. The promo for their upcoming serial Aranmanai Kili recently went on air. In the video, a man on a wheelchair has been termed a otta kaalan, which means one-legged person.

This is getting the serial plenty of attention, but not of the positive kind.

The serial is about a young woman who is forced to marry a wheelchair user and how terrible her life becomes after marriage. At a time when people with disabilities are showing the world the amazing things they can do, this regressive portrayal is clearly out of touch with the times. It's also shows how widely prevalent biases about disabled people continue to be.

Worried about this feedback, Star Vijay has issued a statement that the term was not meant to hurt anyone. The hero in the serial is apparently a successful person, who is supported by the heroine after marriage. Are people convinced? Not really!

Jomy is a wheelchair user and disability rights activist who has been closely working with the Kerala government.

Media usually highlights what society has to say. Personally, I feel this is the term that many people amongst us call a disabled person. There is no running away from it. You need to face and accept it. But at the same time, I'am not justifying what Star Vijay did. They are a popular channel. They should have been more responsible. Since they have a hero on wheelchair, they could have consulted disability rights activist in Chennai to get a better insight about what is sensitive for the disabled community. I spoke to a few activists from Tamil Nadu. They are waiting for the serial to come out to get a real picture.

Madhu Singhal, who is visually impaired, says this serial is regressive and shows attitudes that used to exist years ago.

It is quite unfortunate that Star Vijay had to do something like that. Thirty years back, blind people did not have any education or employment opportunities. You would see them begging in front of temples or streets. But now, just like people with no disabilities, they have proved how capable they are. People with disabilities are reaching for nothing lesser than the stars. That is how they have proved themselves. Media is a reflection of the society. Hence, it is their responsibility to become more sensitive. - Madhu Singhal, Co-founder, NGO Mitra Jyothi.

Many people in the disabled community have reacted sharply. "How horrible that Vijay TV serial Aranmanai Kili has to come up with a promo like this! 'Otta kaalan' is very inhumane", says Muralikrishnan Chinnadurai.

The statement by Star Vijay has clearly not soothed feelings. Will the plot be progressive and make up for this insensitive start? People are watching.

ALSO READ: Disability scanner on Bollywood - time films went beyond just themes to represent people with disabilities



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