Onir’s emotionally fulfilling documentary Raising The Bar on those afflicted with Down’s Syndrome must be an imperative part of every human being’s process of social awakening.
It’s not just those people whose lives are affected by this affliction.The film, shot in Australia and India with the active contribution of those lovely children and young persons trying to assimilate into mainstream society, takes us on an emotionally overwhelming journey with the parents of progenies with Down’s Syndrome. These incredibly brave parents talk with unconcealed emotion about their shock and hurt when they first discovered their children’s special condition and how they eventually coped with the condition with a dogged determination to ensure that their children integrate into the mainstream.
As you watch these beautiful boys and girls dancing, laughing, or simply walking on the street or just getting ready to leave for their jobs, your heart fills up with pride and grief for all those souls in the world who have learned to stand tall in the face of crippling disadvantages.
Onir says the making of Raising The Bar was an emotionally devastating experience for him. “We shot the film in Australia and India. And I realized the importance of inclusiveness, of ensuring that people who are born special get a proper place in society, not just through the support system created by parents family and friends but society at large. To my horror and shock, I realized that in India we do not even provide the basic amenities in public places that are required by people born with special abilities. In India how many movie theatres accommodate wheelchairs?The disability gets as basic as that.”
Comparatively, Onir found Australia far more friendly towards those born with Down’s Syndrome. “In India it is considered a curse by some sections to be born with a child with Down’s Syndrome. In my documentary, you hear a Maharashtrian mother reveal how she was advised my well-wishers to smother her child with Down’s Syndrome under a pillow.”
What we see in the documentary is not only the indomitable spirit of the young people afflicted with this disability but also the determination of their parents to give them as normal an upbringing as possible.
Onir has formed a lifelong bond with all the parents and children who form a part of his documentary. “I think it is very self-serving and cruel to befriend people just for your film and then forget them. Two of those with Down’s Syndrome who figure in my documentary live in Delhi and I try to visit them every time I am in the city.”
Onir wants the message of Raising The Bar to go as far as possible. “I have a show for social workers, NGOs politicians and activists in Delhi on Feb 20 and then another later in the month in Mumbai. I want an awareness to be created as to why it is important for all of us to be patient and compassionate with those who are not as quick to assimilate as normal people are. We need to create a decent space for the specially abled.”