The movie My Name is Khan, starring the sparkly eyed superstar of Indian cinema, Shah Rukh Khan, has been bought by Hollywood’s Fox studio, ushering yet another merger between the East and West, and more greatly, serving to increase awareness. The character suffers from Asperger syndrome, an illness which in communities is often shunned. Yet, one of its outcomes is to produce people of exceptional intellect.
The power of cinema has never been doubted. It transports you to a world which traditionally depicts fairytale concepts, a chance to escape the humdrum realities of life. However, increasingly Indian cinema has undergone a sort of revolution, both in concept and content. Major stars have started to put their names on alternative movies which target real-life issues, increasing awareness, initiating a cultural re-analysis of illness and the challenges included with acceptance.
Rani Mukherjee’s role as a blind student in Black, and Aamir Khan in Taare Zameen Par have won critical acclaim and ushered in a change in perception. Autism spectrum disorders, specifically Asperger syndrome, was defined in the 70s as an illness affecting children, but research indicated that its presence lingers on into adulthood. Though initial interest was limited to academia, attention slowly filtered through, along with indications that physicists and mathematicians such as Paul Dirac, Albert Einstein, and Isaac Newton had some form on mild autism. Thus the question: why is this illness often dismissed as spurts of sudden madness? The simple fact is that those who suffer skills are often at odds with norms, and their mind wanders. It is through these wanderings that we have made leaps in knowledge and it is assuring that Bollywood has acknowledged the need to set facts straight.