New Delhi: When Smile Pinki, a documentary about how a poor village girl recovered her smile, won an Oscar, it made a little girl from UP as much of a celebrity as her contemporaries from a Mumbai slum. It also brought into focus the plight of millions of children and adults who face ostracism and ridicule due to a cleft lip condition. “If you go to some doctors they’d say oh it’s okay, nobody has ever died of a cleft”, says Satish Kalra, regional director, South Asia, of ‘The Smile Train’, a not-for-profit organization.
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Like Smile Pinki, many Oscar winners and nominees for the Best Documentary (Short Subject) have been films based on subjects that require spreading of awareness. They include films like ”Autism is a World” (2004 Oscar winner) about an autistic woman who learned to communicate through facilitated communication, and “The Blood of Yingzhou District” (2006 Oscar winner), about orphans living with HIV/AIDS in China. The medium has been effective in spreading its message.
Smile Pinki is a big win for ‘The Smile Train’, which sponsors these surgeries free of cost.
About 4 million people across the world suffer from a cleft lip and palate condition. With a million people of all ages affected, India has the second highest number of cases after China. Worldwide, 100,000 kids are born with the problem every year. Of this 35,000 are born in India.
The poor cannot afford the surgery, which costs about Rs1 lakh at a private hospital. And with government hospitals overstretched with emergencies, cleft surgeries are not a priority. The Oscar win is expected to help many more Pinkies smile.