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Polio victim from Meerut features in Oscar-nominated docu-film

With the cast of the much-acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire heading to Los Angeles with 10 nominations in what is being hailed as India’s dream run at the Oscars,Meerut-based Mohammad Gulzar Saifi,25,also waits with baited breath.

Written by Suanshu Khurana | New Delhi |
February 5, 2009 12:46:48 am

With the cast of the much-acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire heading to Los Angeles with 10 nominations in what is being hailed as India’s dream run at the Oscars,Meerut-based Mohammad Gulzar Saifi,25,also waits with baited breath. Polio-stricken Saifi,who earns his living by tutoring school children,is one of the protagonists in The Final Inch,a 38-minute documentary film directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tom Grant that has been nominated for Oscars in the Best Documentary category (short films).

In the city to attend We Care Film Festival,a documentary film festival on issues concerning disability,Saifi speaks of his chance meeting with the director and subsequently getting cast in the film. “She (Brodsky) had come to record azaan at a mosque near my house. I had gone to watch the recording out of curiosity,” he says.

The film,which hails the efforts of public health workers in India who are working tirelessly towards eradication of the incurable polio,also captures Saifi’s tryst with everyday chores,like climbing stairs with the help of a walker,or maneuvering congested marketplaces that lack basic amenities for differently abled people. Talking about his first-ever rendezvous with the camera,Saifi says,“I just had to do what I do everyday. There are hardly any amenities available,so I am shown trying to adjust to the ‘normal’ world.”

The film has been shot in Meerut,Mumbai and some cities in Afghanistan. It also showcases the work of thousands of community workers across India trying to persuade reluctant families,especially in the Muslim community,to vaccinate their children.

“I am an Indian Muslim and know of the many misconceptions regarding polio inoculation in our community,with polio drops being seen as the ‘cause’ of impotency and other apprehensions based on religious grounds,” says Saifi,who completed his Masters in Economics in 2006 and has been teaching school children in his colony.

“The two days I spent with madam (Brodsky) has given me strength to raise awareness about the issue among people,beginning with my own locality,” says the real-life underdog who has already become a celebrity in his colony.

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