Utpal Borpujari

February 27, 2010

MNIK becomes first AD-enabled Indian film

By Utpal Borpujari

Shah Rukh Khan starrer My Name is Khan, in which the protagonist Rizwan Khan is afflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, has become the first-ever Indian film to be released in UK cinemas with audio description (AD), enabling the visually impaired to enjoy the drama.

The AD version is the result of the joint effort of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and the 20th Century Fox.

The work was taken up to make the AD version after an RNIB survey among blind or partially sighted people of Asian origin found that over 55 per cent of respondents were more likely to watch Bollywood films if AD was provided.

AD is as important to blind and partially sighted people as subtitles are to those with hearing problems.

It is an additional narration that fits between passages of dialogue to describe action sequences, body language, costume and scenery, allowing the viewer to understand exactly what is happening on screen. MNIK is also the first film to feature AD in Hindi, the language of the film.

Martin Bromfield, executive director at 20th Century Fox, says on the development, “20th Century Fox is proud to offer, for the first time ever, a Hindi AD track on MNIK. English speaking AD has been available on all our films for some time now, so we felt it was natural to progress and offer Hindi AD on our first collaboration with Bollywood.”

20th Century Fox, which has partnered with director Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions to come up with the film that has set the Box Office on fire, first developed an English audio descriptive track with help from RNIB and Deluxe Digital Studios, which was then translated before being recorded by a Hindi speaking audio describer, in time for the second week of release.

“Around 700 films are produced by Bollywood every year, and our research tells us that blind and partially sighted fans want AD on these films. So we are delighted that Fox have worked with us to allow blind and partially sighted people to enjoy this much-anticipated release along with their sighted family and friends. We hope other studios will follow Fox’s lead making MNIK the first of many audio described Bollywood films,” says Fazilet Hadi, director (Inclusive Society) of RNIB.

While he uses the term “Bollywood” to loosely include all Indian films, since Hindi film industry comes up with only around 150 films per year, but the development surely indicates a step forward to help a significant but disabled audience group enjoy Indian cinema.

MNIK opened in the UK on February 11 and was made available with English AD and sub-titles and Hindi AD from February 19.

RNIB’s campaign for AD has led to more than 300 cinemas in the UK getting equipped with systems to facilitate it, and majority of Hollywood and UK films released in the country country have an AD track on them. Many DVDs also include AD on mainstream UK releases, according to RNIB officials.

RNIB in 2009 funded research to determine the demand for AD on Bollywood films from blind and partially sighted people of Asian origin. It found that 19 per cent of the 260 respondents in the quantitative study said they watched a Bollywood film on television everyday, with six per cent stating that they watched them on DVD about once a day.

But viewing of Bollywood films at the cinema was much lower, with 66 per cent stating they never watched Bollywood films at the cinema. Forty per cent believed that their current sight level was a major factor that prevented them from going to the cinema to watch Bollywood films, as it affected their understanding of the film, while over half of the respondents said they were more likely to watch Bollywood films if AD was provided.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 25-02-2010)


February 23, 2010

NMML stumbles upon audio-visual treasure trove

By Utpal Borpujari

A treasure trove of audio-visual material pertaining to the Gandhi-Nehru era have been discovered lying unattended for years at the hallowed precincts of the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML) located at Teen Murti House, the erstwhile residence of India’s first Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru.

Altogether 2,450 cans of 35mm, 16mm and 8mm films, believed to be mostly concentrating on Nehru’s life and times, have been already sent to the National Film Archives of India (NFAI) for restoration, while an inventory is being prepared of “several thousand” audio tapes of speeches of Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

The lot also includes some very rare LP and SP records, such as “Bapuki Amar Kahani” (HMV, 1963), which has lyrics by Rajendra Krishna sung by Mohammad Rafi to compositions of Husnlal Bhagatram, and the multi-record “Amar Vani – Mahatma Gandhi Ke Prarthonattar Bhashan” (HMV-AIR) comprising Gandhi’s answers to questions he received from public after his evening prayers.

After restoration, the whole lot will be digitalized as part of NMML’s ongoing project to digitalise all the newspapers and manuscripts in its archives, and made available to researchers and academics through an in-house server.

“The reels and the tapes were lying in a room without anyone paying attention to them till I discovered them almost accidentally. The films were apparently collected for a film on Nehru by the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund (JLMF), which were handed over to NMML sometime in 1992-93 for storage. Since then, they had been lying in an AC room. Now everything is being restored and digitalized by NFAI,” NMML director Mridula Mukherjee told Deccan Herald.

The audio tapes, similarly, were apparently collected during research for the Collected Works of Nehru project supervised by historian S Gopal.

“Since the material was not integrated with the library, and also not part of the archive in use, we were not aware of their existence till I decided to open the locked room one day,” she says.

“The inventory making process has been a real arduous task as many of the film cans did not even have any information on them. There were four 8mm reels, around 40 16mm, and the rest 35mm comprising negatives, print positives, negative-positives and optical tapes,” says Vagish Jha, in charge of the moving images digitalisation process that is part of the overall multimedia project of NMML.

“The records are especially fascinating because they are definitely very rare finds,” he says. “We are preparing the inventory. It will be difficult to hazard a guess, but thousands of tapes are there. I am told that they came from JNMF,” he adds.

Mukherjee says the digitalisation has been taken up as a pilot project initially since it is still not clear how researchers would seek to utilise them. As part of the multimedia project, NMML is also planning to build a “national repository” of documentary films of all sorts apart from archiving television news.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 22-02-2010)


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