Metrolife: It’s time to show some sensitivity

Anu Prabhakar

How many films have you seen where a stuttering person was used as a comic relief? As actors, I feel we have some responsibility towards society. We should, in some way, be involved in working for causes that are closed to our hearts.

So when Samvaad Institute of Speech and Hearing asked me to head a campaign for stammering, I was more than happy to do so.

Let me give you a background of why I feel for this cause. My father M V Prabhakar worked for a public sector and we lived in the official residence of his factory. My father’s colleague’s children, my brother and I grew up together. Every one of us, without doubt, will tell you that we had a beautiful childhood. One of my father’s colleague’s wife was my music teacher and she had two daughters. The younger one Poorvi was my friend and the older daughter Shruthi Rao, a few years older to me, was a brilliant singer.

She is a very friendly, polite and intelligent girl and Shruthi used to stammer. It always amazed me how she would sing flawlessly but would stutter when she spoke.

 Today, Shruthi is one among the foremost writers of our time. She has successfully published many children’s novels, including one on stammering called ‘Manya Learns to Roar’.

So from a young age, stammering intrigued me, though I had never understood what it was or why it occurred. Radhika Pooviah, the director of Samvaad Institute of Speech and Hearing, made me understand that stammering is not a disability, but an involuntary muscle spasm. She started a petition to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Government of India, end of last year to ensure people with stuttering are portrayed with sensitivity in Indian cinema and I support this cause. Being a part of the film industry, I feel responsible to make people aware of this topic.

I would like to be a part of a movement that helps in removing the social stigma attached to it, not encourage ridiculing of stammering and not to spread wrong information about it through films. Films are a powerful medium and easily influences public opinion. People tend to quickly connect with whatever that is shown in films. So, when someone with a problem of stammering is ridiculed, then you can only imagine how they cope with it in real. People who have the problem may be mocked at by their peers and sometimes even parents scold their children, accusing them of doing it on purpose. Since, I was exposed to it as a child and saw Shruthi growing up with it, my friends and I never made fun of her. But how many children really have that sensitivity?

 My friend Shruthi has been lucky to have amazing parents who have helped her blossom into a confident and successful individual. But many aren’t as lucky as her.

So, let us all try to make a difference to such children’s lives by signing the petition on www.change.org 

Anu Prabhakar

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Metrolife: It’s time to show some sensitivity

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