International Literacy Day - Bollywood!
Sep 8 is International Literacy Day. For over 40 years now, UNESCO has been celebrating International Literacy Day by reminding the international community that literacy is a human right and foundation of all learning. This year the Day is dedicated to “Literacy for the 21st century”.
On this Day, I wish to specially applaud and salute Bollywood for its contribution to literate millions of its fans, particularly the lovers of Bollywood film songs. Mention Bollywood, today the first thing that comes to mind is the Bolly-dance and music. It is this phenomenon that makes Bollywood and cinema in India so very unique. 99% of the films Bollywood turns out are musicals full of incredibly imaginative, loud, vibrant and exciting scenes of song and dance. Bollywood song and dance numbers do not only provide the most popular entertainment to the people, they are also contributing in a big way to convert over 300 million people in India from weak-literacy to functional literacy through Same Language Subtitling (SLS). SLS simply suggests subtitling the lyrics of existing film songs and music-videos on TV, in the ‘same’ language as the audio. In other words, Bollywood film songs marry Karaoke to produce mass literacy. “Karaoke” approach to literacy provides automatic and regular reading practice to the early-literate in India. In addition, nearly 300 million illiterate people are motivated to become literate.
We don't always need shining new technology to do amazing things around the world. With some imagination everyday technology can be re-purposed to do extraordinary things. Let us see how it doubled the number of readers in Indian primary schools when Bollywood combined with Karaoke through same language subtitling – SLS. It is simply the idea of subtitling audio-visual content in the same language as the audio. What you hear is what you read. SLS suggests subtitling the lyrics of existing film songs and music-videos on television in the language they are sung in. The idea of SLS builds on some key observations:
- Indians have a life long passion for Bollywood
- Bollywood produces over 1000 films, and
therefore, at least 5000 film songs a year.
- Over 800 million people already watch television
where Bollywood content dominates.
The information on SLS would be incomplete without special mention of the man who came up with the original idea. Brij Kothari, Faculty, Indian Institute of Management in Ahmadabad, co-founded PlanetRead and Book Box with the aim to spread literacy in India through Bollywood film song-videos with his imaginative idea SLS. None other than Bill Clinton calls SLS: “A small thing that has a staggering impact on peoples' lives”.