Swept by Hindi and Korean serials,films,Mizoram strikes back

State govt trains filmmakers,sets up film city,encourages shorts based on Mizo folk tales

Written by Adam Halliday | Aizawl | Published on:June 29, 2013 10:12 pm

State government trains filmmakers,sets up a film city,encourages shorts based on Mizo folk tales,history

In the mid-2000s,young Mizo men heading home from girlfriends’ houses after an evening’s courtship would huddle around coffee-vending machines in Aizawl’s numerous roadside-shops and,in jest,address each other as “Anurag” or simply “AB”,short for Anurag Basu,the lead character in Hindi serial Kasautii Zindagii Kay.

Kasautii was a household name across Mizoram then,as the state’s cable TV networks beamed Mizo-dubbed versions of the family drama to tens of thousands of homes in villages and towns.

Shortly after came the Koreans,slowly overtaking Hindi serials with their countless melodramatic soaps dubbed in Mizo. It wasn’t just the dominant Mizo community that was enamoured. As taken in were the smaller Mara,Paite,Hmar,Lai,Bru communities as well as ethnic Mizos in Myanmar’s Chin State and others who had migrated to South-East Asian countries.

Now comes the counter-attack. Alarmed at households flooded with serials which have little in common with Mizo culture — and at reports of some trying to emulate role models they saw on screen — the state government has started promoting Mizo films.

In partnership with the newly formed Mizoram Film Development Society (MFDS),the state Information and Public Relations Department is providing basic training to aspiring filmmakers of the state. Two campuses now function as a film city,with traditional Mizo villages serving as permanent exhibits.

The goal is to encourage Mizo filmmakers to create films — mostly shorts — based on the state’s history and Mizo folk tales. Recently,a competition was held of short films based on such folk tales.

“Mizo folk tales are our very own treasure,and these are something that not only us but those from other cultures can enjoy because these would be exotic for them. These have all kinds of plots — what better action can there be,for example,than head-hunting,which our ancestors practised,” said Lalsawmliana Pachuau,founder-adviser of the MFDS and owner of the LPS cable network.

At the ceremony to distribute awards for the competition last week,Pachuau talked about the need to promote Mizo culture. “One night,I could not sleep because I kept thinking of how our children may be influenced to drink soju (Korean alcohol) or pray to gods of other religions when they have problems in life,just like they see in films that dominate our local television networks. It is not that these things are bad,but we have our own culture and practices,” he said.

Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla Sailo,who gave away the awards,worried that “Mizo youths are being influenced by the less savoury aspects of films from other cultures”. He said he was particularly concerned about “young girls using drugs to get Korean complexion”.

For the past few years,local media have been reporting cases of young women taking dubious pills to get a fairer complexion. Doctors warn that some of these drugs have proved fatal.

As the film competition’s theme dictated,the shorts submitted by 19 directors showed traditional Mizo village scenes,romantic plots common to Mizo folk-tales,tribal wars,daily lives of children in earlier Mizo society,and the dress …continued »

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