This strange disease has been known to the doctors and scientists but the mango people, the common masses, so to speak, didn’t know about it. Now, of course, bombarded with so much information, everyone has become an expert. We bring to you a list of films featuring rare and esoteric diseases for your viewing pleasure.

Taare Zameen Par (2007)

It highlighted the fact that special children need more empathy. The film is said to have the most accurate portrayal of dyslexia seen in our films. It marked Aamir Khan’s debut as a director. TZP centre around a boy called Ishaan Awasthi (Darsheel Safary) who suffers from dyslexia, which makes it difficult to cope up with things in his daily life as he kind of lives in his own world and sees things differently. Frustrated by this, his parents send him to a boarding school. Ishaan has a hard time there as well — he’s missing his parents, and the boarding school teachers are even more abusive than the previous school’s and starts to feel that he’s actually a failure. Thankfully, a new teacher, Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Aamir Khan) takes him under his wing. Ram believes that every child is special in their own way and given the right time and attention they all can flourish. He understands Ishaan has dyslexia and decides to help him. With patience, time and care, he helps Ishaan finds himself. Masterful performances by both Aamir Khan and child artiste Darsheel Safary were the highlight of the film.

Ghajini (2008)

Sanjay Singhania (Aamir Khan), is a Mumbai-based businessman who suffers from anterograde amnesia, He’s considered dangerous and is under police observation. Sanjay can’t remember things beyond 15 minutes. He uses a system of photographs, notes, and tattoos on his body to keep his memories up to date. His sole mission in life is all those involved in his wife Kalpana’s (Asin) murder. He’s allegedly on a killing spree and his prime target is Ghajini Dharmatma (Pradeep Rawat). Sunita (Jiah Khan) is a medical student who is interested in knowing more about the disease. She seeks him out at first for her selfish reasons but later, as she comes to know about his past, she helps him get close to his mark. The film then becomes a cat and mouse game between a man who is suffering from memory loss but is nevertheless hell-bent on revenge and a ruthless villain for whom killing comes as easy as breathing. Its success could be attributed to the fact that Aamir Khan undertook amazing body transformation for his role. After months of rigorous training, he emerged as a carved out from granite hulk in the film and the fans, needless to say, went mad.

Paa (2009)

The film’s protagonist Auro (Amitabh Bachchan) suffers from a rare genetic condition known as progeria. He’s just 12 and quite an intelligent and mischievous kid. He behaves like any other tween in the world but physically looks like he’s five times more than his age. He lives with his mother Vidya (Vidya Balan), who is a gynaecologist. His mother has hidden his existence from his biological father, young politician Amol (Abhishek Bachchan), who didn’t want a child at that point of their relationship. Amol meets Arko at a school function where he was called as the chief guest and befriends the brilliant boy. Arko asks him to show the president’s house and Amol does so. Later, when Amol comes to know he’s Vidya’s son, he wants to reconnect with her but she’s still hurting because of his initial rejection. Arko makes it the mission of his life to reconcile the differences between his mother and father. His condition keeps deteriorating and he’s unlikely to outlive his 13th birthday. He’s promised by both at the end that they’ll marry each other and he dies content, calling them Maa and Paa together for the first and the last time. Abhishek Bachchan, who is Amitabh Bachchan’s son in real life, played his father in the film. Vidya Balan was wonderful as the mother, while Bachchan showed he can still surprise you.

My Name Is Khan (2010)

Shah Rukh Khan played a Muslim man suffering from Asperger’s syndrome, who due to circumstances gets accused of being a terrorist. The film touched a chord in the post 9/11 world and Shah Rukh Khan came in for a lot of praise for his valiant portrayal. Rizwan Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) has suffered from Asperger’s syndrome since childhood. He’s brilliant at repairing things. His brother takes him to live with them in America where his sister-in-law recognises his condition. He meets a Hindu woman, Mandira (Kajol), who has a young son Sam from a previous marriage. The duo hit it off and soon marry. She takes his surname after marriage and after the 9/11 attack, that leads them into trouble. Sam is bullied by his neighbourhood kids because of his new surname and is later killed in a hate crime. A shattered Mandira wants to break all types with Rizwan. She tells him the only way he can get back in her life would be if the US president acknowledges his name is Khan and he’s not a terrorist. He begins a journey across America to fulfil his quest, experiencing many adventures along the way. He finally does get to meet President-elect Obama, who fulfils his wish.

Barfi! (2012)

Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor) was named Murphy by his parents, inspired by the British radio brand. Unable to pronounce his own name, as he’s deaf-mute, he says it as Barf. He’s quite mischievous and is always up to all kinds of pranks. He meets Shruti (Illeana) when she’s meeting her family in Darjeeling and is smitten by her. She too likes him but is engaged to be married to someone. Understanding the difference in class and riches between them, she breaks off contact with him and marries the man chosen by her family. Barfi meanwhile means Jhilmil (Priyanka) the autistic daughter of a wealthy man in Darjeeling. There is an attraction between them as well from the start but being autistic, Jhilmil finds it hard to voice her feelings. Slowly, a bond develops between the deaf-mute boy and the autistic girl. It seems they are made for each other and come together defying all odds. The film was praised for its sensitive portrayal of autism. All the three leads were just perfect for their roles and complemented each other to a T.

Margarita With A Straw (2015)

It’s a film about cerebral palsy, about a differently-abled girl exploring her sexuality, about lesbianism, and about dealing with death and loss. Laila (Kalki Koechlin) is a girl suffering from cerebral palsy living in Delhi. She’s just like your normal 20-year-old despite her handicap. She has a crush on the lead singer of her college band and dreams of doing a stint at some American university. She’s good at writing lyrics, good at chess and knows how to charm people over. She watches, or rather, listens to porn and doesn’t shy from buying a vibrator. She meets Khanum (Sayani Gupta) in NY, a blind girl who happens to be a lesbian. They soon become lovers. Then she also has sex with a guy from her creative writing class. The film put too many things on the platter instead of concentrating on just one — cerebral palsy, bi-sexuality, blind lover — thankfully both Kalki Koechlin and Sayani Gupta acted their hearts out. It did make the important point that differently needed people have sexual needs too. Also, everyone needs love in their life.

Hichki (2018)

Hichki is an adaptation of Hollywood film Front of the Class (2008), which itself was based on the book, Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had by Brad Cohen. The film stars Rani Mukerji in the lead role of a teacher having Tourette syndrome. It’s a disorder where the person suffering from it starts making strange noises, over which they have no control. Stress and anxiety are some of the triggers for the episodes. There’s apparently no cure and all a person can hope for is to learn to live with the situation. Rani Mukerji is the soul of the film. She gets the mannerisms right and lends them dignity. You can see she really wants her students to come up in life. The dedication of a teacher is as real as it gets. The children too are naturals and we feel we’re watching real people and not actors.

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