And which country has the largest number of blind people in the world? It will not take a Byomkesh Bakshi to deduce that both questions have the same answer but what is the point?
The point is that in a movie crazy nation, a large percentage of the visually challenged would also be film buffs.
Now in a situation where most of the blind in India are discriminated against because of our prejudices and left out on the fringes because of our system’s apathetic inability to support them, it is inconceivable to even imagine that anyone would even be bothered to ask for their right to enjoy movies as we do.
But we are. People with blindness or low-vision love movies as much or as little as we do and it is their right and our responsibility to ensure that they have the opportunity to do so.
So what are the options? Fairly common in the west, Audio Description is an additional voice track that consists of a narration describing what is happening on the screen (or stage) during existing pauses in the audio. This is channeled through a headphone while the actual dialogues and sound effects continue from the speakers. Many countries have cinema halls that provide the special headset on request.
The innovation in itself is relatively recent, with the concept developed in 1974, first live theatre programmed in 1981, home video is 1988 and first run films in 1992 (all USA).
Some of you must be saying by now, there must be mobile apps for this, and there are... the first was about two years back, for live theatre and events, and now there are cinema apps that pick up the audio using the smartphone’s microphone and sync the Audio Description.
The descriptions are downloaded from a central server where they are pre-loaded.