Smile Pinki.. bringing smile to thousands of kids with cleft lips..

Everybody is talking about Slumdog Millionaire,so I decided to write about Smile Pinki that won the Oscar for Best Documentary (Short Subject) .Smile Pinki is a documentary based on a real story about a girl with a cleft in her upper lip. Pinki is a five-year-old girl from some village of Mirzapur District, India, born in a desperately poor family, and with a cleft lip. They never realized it just required one simple operation, until she meets Pankaj, a social worker traveling from village to village gathering patients to go to hospital in Varanasi that provides free surgery to thousands each year.

DVD insert

Told in a vibrant style, this real-world fairy tale follows its protagonist journey to a dream smile from isolation and shame. The 39 minute film in Hindi and Bhojpuri was set in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, highlights the work of Dr Subodh Kumar Singh whose simple surgery turns poor children born with a cleft lip into smiling faces.. “Earlier she was very depressed, she wasn’t like a child at all. Now she is like any other eight-year-old,” said Pinki’s doctor, Dr Subodh Kumar.

The Oscar nomination not only got Pinki to school, but also made her a star overnight. Pinki flew down to Los Angeles to attend the ceremony with her father and doctor.The film produced and directed by Megan Mylan, nominated for Emmy-nominated for Lost Boys of Sudan, marks a departure for her.

SMILE PINKI sheds light on the global problem of cleft lip and cleft palate. According to Smile Train, more than 4.7 million children in developing countries suffer with unrepaired clefts. Each child could be saved, just like Pinki, with a simple surgery that takes as little as 45 minutes and costs as little as $250.

‘There are many other Pinkis in the world who still need help,’ the website for The Smile Train notes. ‘Millions of poor children with unrepaired clefts who are waiting and wondering if anyone will ever come along and help them. For the vast majority of them, Smile Train is their only hope.

Some associated news..

The GS Memorial Hospital — an associate of the international charity Smile Train — specialises in reconstructive surgery of cleft lips and palates. It is open every day of the week, and some 14,000 surgeries — the largest number for a single hospital in all of Asia — have been Pinky smiles, and so do 22 more in a UP hospital today[source]

Eight-year-old Pinki, on whose life the Oscar winning documentary ‘Smile Pinki’ is based, has more reasons to cheer as an Indore-based medical and management institute has offered her a full scholarship for studying at the institute.[source]

For those interested in knowing more on this subject,read more…

Cleft lip (cheiloschisis) and cleft palate (palatoschisis), which can also occur together as cleft lip and palate are variations of a type of clefting congenital deformity caused by abnormal facial development during gestation. Cleft palate is a condition in which the two plates of the skull that form the hard palate (roof of the mouth) are not completely joined.

The highest prevalence rates for (CL +/- P) are reported for Native Americans and Asians. Africans have the lowest prevalence rates.A cleft lip or palate can be successfully treated with surgery soon after birth. Cleft lips or palates occur in somewhere between one in 600-800 births.

What Causes a Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate?

In most cases, the cause of cleft lip and cleft palate is unknown. These conditions cannot be prevented. Most scientists believe clefts are due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There appears to be a greater chance of clefting in a newborn if a sibling, parent, or relative has had the problem. Another potential cause may be related to a medication a mother may have taken during her pregnancy. Some drugs may cause cleft lip and cleft palate. Among them: anti-seizure/anticonvulsant medications, acne medications containing Accutane, and methotrexate, a drug commonly used for treating cancer, arthritis, and psoriasis. Cleft lip and cleft palate may also occur as a result of exposure to viruses or chemicals while the fetus is developing in the womb. In other situations, cleft lip and cleft palate may be part of another medical condition. .

What Problems Are Associated With Cleft Lip Cleft Palate?

Cleft may cause problems with feeding, ear disease, speech and socialization. Due to lack of suction, an infant with a cleft may have trouble feeding Individuals with cleft also face many middle ear infections which can eventually lead to total hearing loss. Because the lips and palate are both used in pronunciation, individuals with cleft usually need the aid of a speech therapist. Bonding with the infant, socializing with family and community may be interrupted by the unexpected appearance, unusual speech and the surgical interventions necessary. Support for the parents as well as for the child can be pivotal. A cleft palate/lip may impact an individual’s self-esteem, social skills, and behavior. There is a large amount of research dedicated to the psychosocial development of individuals with cleft palate. Self-concept may be adversely affected by the presence of a cleft palate

The images are so disturbing and depressing,so I am not sharing it here-call me a coward or an escapist,but I can’t deal with it..I hope this never happens to anymore babies.When I can’t even look at the image,I understand the extend of stigma these kids undergo in their life..It could happen to your baby or my baby,we can’t prevent it from happening.So next time you see a kid or adult with cleft lips,please don’t turn your face away from them.If you can’t help them,atleast don’t hurt them..

Early morning,this post made my head burning and depressed.Think of those thousands or millions who live this life,for no fault of theirs..Life is unfair 😦




Edited to add


See Pinki after the operation…



Isn’t she cute 🙂

  1. A friend had a cleft left lip, he is one of my most dearest friends although he was operated when very young …!!

    This girl Pinki and her story only came to my knowledge yesterday !!

    suddenly i felt a bit good about the oscars that they even recognise such films

    the mother of the girl had to travel 30 kms to see her on tv…. such stories are recognised…

    i guess the academy is not as useless as i thought !!!

  2. wonderful post and thanks for all that information.

  3. Good post. And welcome back home to blogosphere Cleft lip and cleft palate are very common birth defects that can easily be corrected. Many NGOs have arrangements with pvt hospitals for doing the surgery free for poor kids. Jubilee Mission hospital in Trichur Kerala have such a program.

    • Solilo
    • February 24th, 2009

    Nims, I was typing a post on how we forgot to appreciate the other Indian winner ‘Smile Pinki’ and saw this incoming link 😀 . I left midway. You have written is well and informative.

    • Solilo
    • February 24th, 2009

    BTW the picture under ‘I support’ isn’t showing.

  4. Good post, Nimmy. It was time a fellow blogger appreciated the ‘other’ Oscar winner as well. Everybody was waxing lyrical about SM, and you did the right thing!

  5. Nimmy, I was glad to hear about the documentary ‘Smile Pinki’ winning the award! The organisation doing such good work deserves some recognition, too!

  6. lovely post…it brought a smile.

  7. I wonder why so many India related films are winning awards! Its like India is suddenly on everyone’s radar. I am sure smilepinky was a good film though.

  8. Nimmy, excellent post! Well done!

  9. A very informative post. I’m glad you put it up. And thank you for the trailer, I was wondering where I could get some insight into the documentary and I completely forgot about Youtube 🙂

    Keep Blogging!!

  10. loved this post and the way you presented all the information 🙂
    Like solilo,I too was doing a post on this and left it have done such a great job of it.:)

    one can barely inagine the taunts to which a child with a cleft lip is subjected to.Our society can sometimes be very cruel.

    happy that you have thrown light on this documentary and happy too that it won..:)

    • Nimmy
    • February 24th, 2009

    Thank you all for your comments.Sorry for not replying individually..I have very bad cold today and is in no mood to be i good spirit..I just hope that atleast we few who read this will not have any prejudice or aversion towards such kids or people who have cleft lips,for no reason of theirs.And maybe we can guide them to any health centers where they can get it corrected at less cost.Maybe one such action will help our own future generations away from having this sad state..

    Sadly,Smile Pinki,which has a stronger message than Slumdog,got drowned in the glaze of 8 Oscars.Nervermind,atleast we few remembered Pinki ..

    @Solilo and Indyeah- 🙂 Remember that earlier too we had this telepathy incident..

    Good day to all..

  11. Very informative post…
    Thank you for sharing so much info… 🙂

  12. Thanks a lot for all the info. Though I have seen such people, I never realised the issues connected with it. Well written.

  13. Thanks for the info Nimmy… nice post 🙂

  14. I was so happy for this movie, much more than Slumdog. Will see this one as soon as possible.

  15. It is also a serious problem in China !!!

  16. I was wondering why is everyone talking about Slumdog and not about this one! Good you wrote about it!!

    🙂 And it’s horrible that there is a solution available but unaffordable to so many!

    • priyankabhandarkar
    • February 27th, 2009

    I was wondering what ‘Smile Pinki’ is all about after I watched the Oscars. Good post Nimmi! You should post a pic of her after she got operated. I went hunting for her picture with her perfect smile after I read your post 🙂 She looks so sweet.

    • Nimmy
    • February 27th, 2009

    Thank you all for our comments..Good day

  17. wow ..i had just heard aboutthe movie that it won oscars..
    thanks for briefing about the movie ..
    lovely post. .

    • DMorgan
    • May 5th, 2011

    Smile Train is one of the best organization i’ve ever heard of because Smile Train Is All About Outcomes . You very literally get to see that in the documentary Smile Pinki! What a wonderful charity and a wonderful way to give back to the world…by making a child smile!

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