Parents of kids with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often must deal with situations when their kid’s needs may trigger strong reactions from people outside of the family. Imagine a scenario wherein a youngster with Down’s Syndrome meets a neighbour with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This is exactly the premise of the filmmaker Nikhil Pherwani’s debut movie Ahaan.
The most endearing aspect of the eponymous protagonist of the film is played by Abuli Mamaji who actually has the condition in real life. In fact, the director started writing the initial draft of the script in 2013. It was during his research on the topic that he met Abuli and made several changes to the script from observing the lovely young man. When Abuli mentioned his interest in acting and films, Pherwani made the decision to cast him as the main lead.
The director’s thorough research and understanding of the world of people with intellectual disabilities is visible in the film’s treatment of its titular character. Instead of being preachy and serious, it gives a light-hearted and happy peep into the world of Ahaan. His parents’ arguments over his need for inclusion, his naive and optimistic outlook about life are themes all too familiar to caregivers of kids with special needs. It’s a sweet, feel-good movie that makes one happy to see the accurate representation of the subject it deals with.
His neighbour with OCD is played by acclaimed actor Arif Zakaria. Other important roles are played by Plabita Borthakur, Nikharika Singh, Rajit Kapur, Shilpa Mehta and Kaizad Kotwal. The movie is available on Netflix.