SPI Cinemas launched SENS, which allows children and persons with heightened sensory issues to be themselves inside the movie theatre.

Cinema for everyone Chennai multiplex now screens shows for persons with disabilities
Features Cinema Monday, August 06, 2018 - 11:53

For eight-year-old Vardhana, Sunday was going to be fun. Dressed in a black and cream coloured frock, she hops and skips into the theatre, excitedly holding on to her father’s hand. This is the first time Vardhana, a child with learning disabilities, is getting a chance to be herself inside the movie theatre.

Most often than not, the entertainment facilities in the city are under-equipped to accommodate people with disabilities. But all this is beginning to change with the introduction of SENS by SPI Cinemas.

“More than the film, she is enjoying the experience. We’ve never sat through for a film for so long, this is our first. We don’t get to take our daughter to many places in the city,” says her father, Anwar Basha, adding, “It is the case with most children with learning and intellectual disabilities. Apart from home and school, if they get to go out, it might be to a different city/town."

As Preetha Ramaswamy, Head of PR at SPI puts it, SENS is a part of SPI’s ‘cinema for everyone’ project. “It is an ambitious project. We’ve been looking at ways to use cinema as a social change project. One of it is our inclusive screening. When the pilot show went well, we decided to make it a monthly affair,” she says.

Maala Chinappa, co-founder of A Special World, a support group for families with children with intellectual and physical disabilities, is the brains behind this initiative. “We have been doing this for two years. We used to book an entire preview theatre so parents can come with their children to watch films, but with increasing demand we thought it needs to get bigger.”

The idea behind SENS is that it allows children with heightened sensory issues to be themselves inside the movie theatre. “If this sound is toned down a bit, the lights are kept at dim and if free movement is allowed, they can experience cinema like everyone else,” says Maala.

Maala also adds that people have become more accepting and understanding of such needs. “We recently had a family who had turned up to the wrong theatre to watchPeter Rabbit. But when we told them that the screening here would be different, they were absolutely understanding. People are willing to accommodate and that is important,” she says.

“It is usually very difficult to manage my son inside a theatre. He is also not mobile and needs special care. But because of SENS he’s able to have some fun today. He is 22-years-old and this is his third movie experience inside the theatre,” says Murali adding that making this a monthly routine will be of great happiness for children with disabilities and their families.

SENS is currently available in Chennai and Coimbatore with plans to branch out to Mumbai and Bengaluru later.

Tickets for SENS shows, that’ll be organised on the first Sunday of every month, can be booked online from SPI’s website.

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