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Malegaon Superman fought tobacco on screen,is losing battle in real life

Shafique,23,is today a victim of the same menace.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
July 29, 2011 12:10:08 am

Hollow-cheeked and skinny,factory worker Shaikh Shafique vowed to end the tobacco menace in Malegaon ka Superman,which was screened at IFFI in Goa last December. Shafique,23,is today a victim of the same menace. Now in an advanced stage of tongue cancer,he is praying he can survive long enough to see the film,set for release in Malegaon on the occasion of Bakrid.

Shafique,father of two,has been under treatment at the Tata Memorial Cancer Centre,Mumbai,for over a year now.

“Shafique had come for treatment with half his tongue eaten away by gutkha. The entire tongue had to be removed along with the neck nodes followed by plastic surgery at the hospital,” says Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi,associate professor in the hospital’s head and neck department.

Shafique got addicted to gutkha when he was barely eight. Submucus fibrosis made it difficult to open his mouth and,by the time he was 19,he could open it beyond one centimetre. His mouth became very sensitive to heat,cold and spices and he had trouble eating solid food,his wife Jameela,21,told The Indian Express from Malegaon.

Shafique’s health continued to deteriorate but so addictive was the gutkha habit that he could never give it up,recalls Shaikh Nasir,who directed the low-budget Malegaon ka Superman in 2009. It has won awards at film festivals in Los Angeles and Prague,and in Italy and Pakistan,in the last two years,he says.

Shafique soon developed tongue cancer. He had an extremely painful ulcer on the tongue that kept progressing,says Dr Chaturvedi. The disease recurred within six months of treatment and the progression has not been responding to any kind of treatment.

Jameela,who has two daughters,one aged three years and the other two months,says Shafique used to chew gutkha from 30-40 packets everyday.

Today,he has to seek assistance to buy expensive medicines. After surgery,Shafique struggled to speak and had to undergo radiotherapy that sapped him of all energy and took away his good looks,says older brother Atiq,who along with other family members spend Rs 1,500-2000 everyday on medicines.

For Shafique,lying on his bed with a deep hollow in his neck and mouth,speaking is an ordeal.

In the film the Superman’s father tells him to “Save Malegaon” and the hero does several things right,like taking babies to hospital for anti-polio drops.

“There is a shot in the film where someone chewing tobacco accidentally spits on him and he decides to end the menace. During the shooting,too,we had urged him to give up the addiction,” the director says.

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