Neeraja Murthy meets a group of differently-abled youngsters who challenge odds to dance, play music and act

Of late the city has seen a spurt in music and dance programmes by differently-abled. If a group of visually-challenged students made their school proud by dancing and winning a prize, other hearing-impaired youngsters proved their impairment is no barrier, if only they have a steely determination.

When Anju Khemani of the Drama Association of the Deaf (DAD) embarked on a project to teach the deaf how to move to a beat, she had no inkling of the surprise that awaited her. “The production was a discovery in the process,” she says. Members of DAD recently stunned all when they performed the musical ‘Rockstars’ in sign language. Even as the appreciative audience wondered how the hearing-impaired could ‘listen’ to music and dance, these ‘rock stars’ are ready to give their next performance on December 21 (This time, they have chosen a popular English number).

When we meet Farooq, Kareema, Abdul Ashwaq, Venu, Sethu, Siba, Phani and Rohit of DAD, the youngsters are eager to share their musical story. Anju interprets their sign language, the joy of holding balloons and feeling its vibrations when music is played.

“Holding the balloons and feeling its slight shake when loud music is on is a fascinating sensation. They feel the music and move to the beats,” explains Anju, as Abdul plays music and gives us a balloon to hold and experience.

Elsewhere, at the Devnar School for the Blind, visually-challenged boys and girls are a proud and happy lot. They won the third prize at the All India Dance Competition for the Visually Challenged held in Madurai during the last week of November. Their teacher Fidra Sym, who accompanied the students recalls, “It was a big cultural experience for all of us. First, was the long train journey and then came the day for competition. It was amazing to see the way the students danced independently. The dance was quite challenging, as it involved props. The children were very dedicated and what we saw on stage was entertaining and quite inspiring.”

Music and dance are a way to experience joy and spread joy among others. For the differently-abled, the experience is not only therapeutic but boosts their physical and mental well being.

The sobriquet of a comic man would aptly fit Venu. The singer cum mimicry artiste has just made his debut as an actor with the Telugu feature film Minugurulu that featured 40 visually challenged children. On stage, he is a comedy king cracking jokes and imitating the voice of politicians TDP president Nara Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, Congress leader Hanumantha Rao and actors Pawan Kalyan, Prabahas, (late) Srihari, amongst others. When he recites the popular ‘Bhairava’ dialogue from Maghadheera, the narration is met with claps and whistles. “In Minugurulu, I play a character which is similar to how I am in real life,” smiles Venu. Director and producer Ayodhya Kumar Krishnamshetty says he is repeatedly asked how difficult it was to work with the visually-challenged.

“There was no difficulty,” he says and continues, “One thing I noticed during the shoot is that their energy levels are always high. The enthusiasm would remain the same even when we continued shoot after midnight. ”

At a time when we continually read news of youngsters taking their own lives when unable to cope with setbacks that may be temporary, these youngsters inspire with their ability to live life against all odds.