Movie Review by Yuimi Vashum
In the thick of political turmoil where patriotism and corruption are alleged to be one, the movie LAY (Lan Ashee Yur) is a welcoming move. Written and directed by one of Tangkhul’s favourite actors Khavangpam Mahung who debuted his first act in the movie Kha Yurna Mataimei, I went expecting a romanticised patriotic movie and surely so, it was. Although the glorification could’ve been more subtle, they brought in a lot of real issues packed with punchlines, and I nevertheless enjoyed the show.
Here’s how it goes: The opening act is that of election time- a tale of an old corrupted politician and an honest young politician (so ideal, no?) where the young man Zangasung is dating the old man’s daughter, Shairin. The differences between the two politicians led to the breakup of Asung and Shairin, where Asung, later on, went to join the NSCN-IM to fulfil his ‘larger-than-life’ ideals. Three years later, Asung comes home as a Commander and Shairin is an SDPO. Meanwhile, a fitting villain, Rinpei, from another faction group responsible for bombing, extortion and murder is on the prowl, working with the corrupted politician. The ex-lovers are in a love-hate stage, and two strong supporting role steals the limelight meanwhile. Corruption comes back and bites the old politician- Shimreiyo. As there can be only one winner, the movie ends with Asung doing what any hero does best- annihilate the villain. Love life gets all sunshine again because Tangkhuls aren’t fond of sad endings.
Lasting for about 1 hour and 52 minutes plus few seconds, finally, I have watched one of the few Tangkhul movies that aren’t cringe-worthy. That said, it’s truly commendable how our lead actors have evolved, in their expressions and their tone. More importantly, it was a pleasant sight to have their lead female actor take on a strong role as SDPO and not being a ‘scaredy lovesick woman’. Somehow I’ve come to like Timmi in strong roles such as this and not being the usually soft-spoken lover-girlfriend, that is just so mainstream! Meiphung Production also brought in another strong woman character Chonchon Varah as the CAO WTR although not much of her in action, the act itself can be considered a move forward in the portrayal of women empowerment in the Tangkhul film industry.
Their opening act itself implied the social message it carried. I was excited about the portrayal of different ideals between the national political party and its national workers (because it made sense); something we use interchangeably. Then the issue of buying votes, the IMs ‘pick-up-and-thrash-them’ habit plus endless summons, I tell you, their opening act had me swooning for a revolutionising sort of movie. But bam! Just when I almost swooned, the romance with IMs began- a larger than life protagonist off to become a national worker to bring change in the society. And just like that, what could’ve been such a revolutionizing movie for all of us became another ‘dreamy Utopian’ movie. There was a huge disconnect.
The recurring theme throughout the movie was ‘kha yurna mataimei’. While many of the Tangkhuls clearly are motivated by patriotism, it is unclear what message they wanted to convey except for the very phrase “Thingrongli khanukha thingna putta ya, yur li khanukha nongmeitheira putta ya” which seems to be a key element. Although the intention I grasp, my only thought all through the movie was- IMs have been facing a lot of criticism for its ‘killing-order’, which is like the capital punishment, then why embrace it so openly? When the whole world is trying to stop capital punishment, here we were, glorifying it with statements like ‘kha yurna mataimei’ and then bang! So I kept wondering- what exactly do they want to convey? At times, it somehow seemed like a threat. Was this plot not well-thought through? Maybe we should consider delivering subtle messages, not as blunt as this.
On the brighter side, the filmmaker also brought in the issue of child trafficking for few seconds referring to the real case of the rescue by Tangkhul Shanao Long Delhi (TSLD) from Jaipur. It made sense to be talking about it when we are facing it real-time. I only wished they had developed it into something bigger, maybe a message? Even the issue of taxation of the non-locals in Ukhrul came up, something our film industry has never touched upon. This was more of a heartwarming moment for me, to have their plights seen on screen. For these, Kudos to you Khavangpam.
One glitch though, the scene before and after intermission was abrupt just like the storyline, a little too loosely woven except for the endless re-emphasis on patriotism. As a viewer, as a public and as a patriotic Tangkhul Naga myself, I would’ve related all the more to the cause of ‘kha yurna mataimei’ if there wasn’t so much of a divide between us and the hero. The hero was made a demigod. I guess it would be right to say that the movie was trying to tackle too many issues at once, and in the process confused all of us.
That said, the movie was good (really). The background music was well chosen, tuned well, and each matching the mood of the scene. The relevant music had a lot to do with laughter that erupted in town hall along with its brilliantly crafted punchlines. Although, improvement in the audio quality would be welcome because I found it quite muffled at some parts to the extent where I had to ask my friend to repeat it. The movie also gave one of the biggest pickup lines- “Nana ili maningkachang hi iwui takhanar maningmana kha nawui takhanar na”. This line made the two supporting actors fall for each other (try it yourself). And also praiseworthy strong speeches like “Yurchi Ina; Ichi Yurna” and “Iwui phasa li singzakapai permission yur na mila?”.
Lastly, but not the least, the villain deserves a special mention (although he deserved to die fighting, like a man). From the music that introduced him to the acting he delivered, it was one hell of a villainy acting that you actually want to throw a bottle up on the screen. I think Tangkhul films have finally found its fitting Villain.
Kudos to the cast- such brilliant acting. No doubt, the success was a collective effort of the entire crew- from the runners to the riders, the non-locals to the mother role, every small role made up the big picture. I am pretty sure that LAY has set the standard for acting in our film industry and from here on, we only move forward.
In the movie’s own line- Nana movie hi makhayang hi ashiwui takhanar maningmana kha nawui takhanar na!