I did role for my country, says hero of Oscar-nominated documentary

February 20th, 2009 - 11:18 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 20 (IANS) Polio-affected Mohammad Gulzar Saifi, who stars in the Academy Award nominated “The Last Inch”, will not be at the Oscars. But he says he did the role for his country and hopes both his documentary and “Slumdog Millionaire” will bag the awards Feb 22.

His film has been nominated in the short documentary category and yet Saifi, who is from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, is unperturbed that he is not travelling to the US like slum kids Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail, who play key roles in another India-based movie “Slumdog Millionaire”.

“Before the film got nominated, I did not expect that it will reach this point, but after the nomination, I’m sure that the film will win. I’m praying to Allah that it gets its due recognition by bagging the award,” Saifi told IANS on phone from Meerut.

“This year three films with Indian themes have been nominated in the prestigious awards. This is a great year for India. I’m proud of my country. I haven’t seen ‘Slumdog…’ but I have heard that it is a great film. I’m sure it will win and make India proud,” added Saifi.

He says the Oscar nomination for the documentary hasn’t brought much change to his life.

“I’m still an ordinary citizen of the country. But, yes, after the nomination of the documentary and the media’s glare on me, people’s behaviour and their perception towards me have changed. Now I’m not just a polio-infected person,” Saifi said.

Directed by American filmmakers Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tom Grant, “The Final Inch” revolves around the efforts to eradicate polio and shows how social workers in India travel throughout the country urging parents to vaccinate their children against the disease.

“The subject of the documentary was already decided by the filmmakers. It shows that in spite of a good polio campaign, we still haven’t been able to eradicate the virus completely. The areas targeted in the film are Meerut and the rest of Uttar Pradesh,” said Saifi.

Asked how he got the role, Saifi said: “One evening while going to my house, I saw a couple of foreigners going towards the mosque. As a responsible citizen I went to them to ask them if they needed any help.

“They had a translator with them but when they saw that I did not need a translator to converse with them, they were elated and very impressed. When they saw that I’m myself suffering from the disease and can speak in English, they offered me the role. I first discussed it with my brother and then decided to take it up feeling that I’ll do it for my country and for humanity.”

Saifi, the only educated person in his family, feels recognition for the documentary will help the cause of polio eradication.

“I’m very happy with the recognition that the documentary has received because that will help in spreading awareness. Now that the media is focusing on it, the message can reach more and more people,” said Saifi.

“Polio is a problem not only in India but around the world. It is our duty that we make people aware and tell them about the problems that a child can face if proper vaccination is not given to him.”

Another documentary with an Indian theme that has got an Oscar nomination is Megan Mylan’s “Smile Pinki”.

(Ruchika Kher can be contacted at ruchika.k@ians.in)

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