- One Little Finger is written and directed by Dr Rupam Sarmah
- The film gives out the message of ‘ability in disability’ and inclusion
- Disability is a human rights issue: Dr Sarmah
New Delhi: Raina, an American neurologist, uproots her life to research music therapy in India and finds herself teaching children and adults with disabilities. This is the story of One Little Finger, a narrative feature film. But what sets it apart are the theme ‘ability in disability’ and the fact that the film cast over 80 children and adults with disabilities. Based on real-life stories of persons with disabilities, One Little Finger is written and directed by Rupam Sarmah and gives out the clear message of inclusion of one and all in society.
The NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India supports the idea of Leaving No One Behind which is also contained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As part of our special series ‘Able 2.0’, we spoke to Dr Rupam Sarmah Film Director, Record Producer, Composer, Computer Engineer and the Founder of One Little Finger Global Foundation.
Dr Sarmah’s film has over 30 laurels in its name including Best Film for Inspiration, Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Music, Best Song, Best Actor, and the Human Rights Award at various film festivals and three Telly Awards. Talking to the Banega Swasth India team about the film, Dr Sarmah said,
Often, children with disabilities become victims of neglect, bullying and harassment. In the movie, Raina, an American neurologist, brings people with disabilities together through music and inspires them to challenge themselves through their abilities and their lives are transformed. To me, One Little Finger is not just a film; it is a movement to break the barriers of stigma around the word disability. All it takes is a change in perspective, a change in our mindset. Disability is what we perceive; ability is everything we believe.
When asked about the muse behind the film, Dr Sarmah said that he was inspired by the life stories of the people with disabilities and wanted to take on the challenge of learning more about them, telling their stories to the world and creating a platform for them to show their abilities and not disabilities.
People are disabled, not only mentally, physically, and emotionally, but by society itself. Disability is not a charity; it’s a human rights issue. We have a moral responsibility to help them and we all rise by lifting others, he said.
The 105-minute-long film is a result of years of research about the subject, a collection of facts, and music therapy. The team was met with multiple challenges like the few investors the film had backed out since they did not like the idea of casting children with disabilities.
I was asked to replace all children with professional actors. I refused because it would have defeated the purpose of the film ‘ability in disability’, he said.
Since the cast includes children and adults with varied disabilities – from cerebral palsy, hearing and speech impairment, Autism to Down syndrome – another challenge was to train people to act and present themselves in front of the camera. Workshops were conducted to help persons with disabilities through the process of filmmaking.
Sayomdeb Mukherjee, popularly known as Den, is an author, actor, radio jockey and one of the actors in the film. Due to a genetic disorder, Den could not speak till 25 years of age. He has multiple disabilities like dyslexia, quadra plegia – paralysis of four limbs, among others. While working in the movie, Den had to first listen to the dialogues, remember, recall and then deliver.
Sharing struggles of another actor, Dr Sarmah said,
Abhinaya, an Indian film actress and model, is both hearing and speech impaired. Even with her hearing device, she can hear only buzzing sounds. She has no understanding of words and the modulation of words but she can read simple English words. So, we would present words to her like ‘cry’ and she would accordingly enact. It was a learning curve for me and my team to understand each of them.
Further talking about the importance of empowering people with disability, Dr Sarmah said,
Empowering means giving them independence. Take them out of the box so that they can do anything they want to do in this life. Find things they are passionate about and love to do and eventually, help them to get there. And of course, we need to give them a reasonable platform to succeed. It is all about creating a better society. People with disability have fewer opportunities to learn or get a job.
Calling the exclusion of people with disabilities “a human rights issue”, Dr Sarmah called to work together as a society. He is of the opinion that if 23 million people with disabilities in India or the world’s 15 per cent disabled population joins the workforce; they will contribute to society as taxpayers.
We need to raise awareness and create a competency-based education model so that we can train them with job-oriented skills and connect with employers. Government can take steps to build ramps in public places and with artificial intelligence (AI), we can build assistive devices that can help people with disabilities, he said while signing off.
You can listen to the full Banega Swasth India podcast discussion by hitting the play button on the Spotify player embedded above.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.