Techie Sivaprasad Kashimankulam has directed Shadows, a feature film for the visually challenged

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For long the visually challenged have been left in the dark, especially when it comes to the movies. Now young techie Sivaprasad Kashimankulam, a mobility specialist who develops iPhone apps at Applexus Technology in Technopark, is all set to bring about a change and make cinema accessible to the visually challenged. He has come out with a 100-minute feature film titled Shadows, which he says is “one of the first ‘blind accessible cinemas’ in the country”. The audio release of the film is set for March 18 at Karikkakom temple.

“Shadows is perhaps Malayalam’s first complete ‘blind accessible cinema’. These days with the advancement in technology, the trend of blind accessible formats for commercial cinemas is picking up in the West. It is still rare in India. One of the only commercial cinemas in such a format is Sanjay Leela Bansali’s Black,” says Sivaprasad. How then does such cinema play out? “Nowadays most theatres, especially in the West, are equipped with descriptive audio features that ‘narrate’ the action as it happens on the screen, through specially designed headphones worn by the visually challenged person. Here in Kerala we do not have access to such facilities. So we have used DAISY – Digital Accessible Information System, a digital talking book format, which offers many additional advantages over traditional audio books on regular CDs. To put it simply, it’s like a podcast with audio description. Prior to a scene, the visually challenged will get a full description of the make up and situation of the particular scene, complete with sound effects,” explains Sivaprasad.

The 23-year-old, who hails from Thalassery in Kannur, has already made three short films, namely Ormayilninnoru Nadam, The Hidden Truth and The Bridge. “I’ve always been interested in filmmaking. While studying at RVS College of Engineering, Coimbatore, I was inspired by how engineer-turned-actor-turned- director Vineeth Sreenivasan and his friends made the journey into filmdom. I made the short films while in college and I used to get positive feedback from my college mates. That’s why I decided that one day I would make a cinema,” says the techie.

His interactions with his visually challenged friend, Salih, inspired Sivaprasad to make Shadows. “Salih was my colleague when I worked at Schogini Systems. It was only after I got to know Salih that I realised I had a lot of misconceptions about the visually challenged. Salih, who used to develop apps for the visually challenged, was the leader of the company’s chess team and is one of the most dynamic people I know. He once talked to me how the visually challenged in India don’t really have access to cinema. I decided that if I make the movie I would want it to make a real difference. Salih was very excited about Shadows and wrote the audio descriptive parts of the film,” says Sivaprasad.

Shadows, set in Thalassery, tells the tale of three friends – Deepu, Raju and the visually challenged Viswanathan. It’s also a tale of familial bonds that explores Viswanathan’s ties with his wife and his much younger sister. The story unfolds through the many people that walk in and out of Viswanathan’s life. “It’s a simple and straightforward story,” says Sivaprasad. The casting of the film was done through online auditions, the profiles shortlisted from Auditions are here, a Facebook page of wannabe actors. The film has been made under the banner of Silent Maker’s Pictures.

Sivaprasad hopes to premiere the film on April 25 at the Kairali-Sree-Nila complex in the city in the presence of many visually challenged persons. The theatrical release is set for May.

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