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Iconic film Sholay to be screened with audio description at IFFI 2018

Sholay, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra is one of India's landmark films, which makes it great news that the movie will be among the two to be screened as part of the curated section for people with disabilities at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Panjim, Goa.

Over nine days, from 20 to 29 November, films across all walks of life will be screened, including 47 of the finest Indian films. Along with Sholay, Hichki, starring Rani Mukherji, will also be a part of the curated section.

In 2016, the programming package of the festival started including a section for disabled children so they got a chance to experience the wonders of cinema. This was done in partnership with UNESCO and Saksham, under the Accessible India Campaign and Sugamaya Bharat Abhiyan.

A Delhi-based NGO, Saksham has played a major role in making films accessible for blind viewers though audio descriptions, and for deaf viewers with subtitles.

The 2016 IFFI was the first ever Indian Film festival to screen audio descriptive movies. The first three audio descriptive films screened were Gandhi, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, and Dhanak. In 2017, the films screened were Hindi medium and Secret Super Star.

In continuation with the earlier themes, this year the choice of films have stories that revolve around the lives of children. There is also a special presentation of films from Tunisia so children in India get to experience international cinema.

These steps towards inclusion on such a mainstream and international platform are long overdue, believes filmmaker Satya Prakash, who has many films on disability to his credit.

This is a great step and a major leap towards recognising the disability sector. Personally I would have chosen a film like Black or Andha Dhun, but it is a welcome step nonetheless. It is high time the disabled community in India made its presence felt and this is a good platform. - Satya Prakash, Filmmaker

Danish Mahajan, a key member of Radio Udaan, the online radio initiative run by blind and low vision people hopes to see this taken several steps forward.

"This is a welcome development and in future we should work towards making all films accessible. Movies without audio description can be enjoyed somewhat when people describe the film to you, but there is a different kind of experience with audio description. I hope that accessibility becomes as widely prevalent here as it is in the West. There its automatic with everything, like an ATM or a film. Here it's an afterthought. I hope that changes."

These are baby steps yet but all going in the right direction, as Simran Chawla, who recently starred in the film Teen Dost says. Chawla, who is visually impaired, acted as a young woman starting a new stage in life. "I am happy because these small steps will take us to great heights one day. "

"Wow!", says Vineet Saraiwala, who is a low vision marathoner in Mumbai. "That's my first reaction and it is an interesting time to be blind with popular films like Sholay and Hichki coming with an audio description. I would definitely love to watch Sholay. Blind people love movies and I am a big fan. I watch movies every week and this is the beginning of something great to come in the next five years."

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