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Here's why LAY was more than just a movie

The last time I remember watching a Tangkhul movie wasRamcho Ramrin. I was a small kid back then. It was the days of VCRs and video halls.  

If I’m not wrong till the early 90s Tangkhul movies were released every so often. But for some reason, unknown to me, there was a pause in Tangkhul movie productions. I sometimes wonder, had we continued to produce movies without a pause we could have come a long way. Well at least to the level of the current Manipuri film industries.
However, it’s good to see that the production of Tangkhul movies has continued to start in the last few years. This surely is the second inning in the history of the Tangkhul film industries.

Though some good Tangkhul movies were released in the recent years, I somehow didn't get the opportunity nor was I enthusiastic enough to go watch the movie. I have seen some Tangkhul music videos which are quite embarrassing and torturous (if you know what I mean) to watch and comparing it to Manipuri videos or other NE tribal videos makes it even worse. I’m sure many of you will be like me who were quite skeptical about Tangkhul videos/movies.

But then, there comes Meiphung Productions, who have lifted Tangkhul film industries to the next level by their great movies and also their marketing strategies. I have heard a lot of good reviews about movies from Meiphung productions. So, when I heard about the screening of LAY in Guwahati I was totally excited and enthusiastic to watch the movie.

Well, I got the opportunity to watch the movie on 26th May 2018 at LM Hall, CBCNEI, Guwahati. And to be honest, I was impressed with the movie. And with that note, I would like to throw some observation I made while watching the movie. I'm not a movie critic and this is not a review about the acting, the storyline or their overall quality. Great reviews have already been written about this movie and I don't want to review the same again.

LAY movie highlights some major issues that are currently prevailing in our society. And I’m happy to see that such social issues are being addressed through such platform. Kudos to Meiphung Productions for the well thought out ideas. Here are my observations:

1. Hard facts: The discussion at the beginning of the movie throws some hard facts and sad reality. One may like it or not, but it is a fact that NSCNs are getting involved with almost everything in our society. Be it petty cases such as quarrelling among friends and families to the big cases such as land disputes among villages or killings. Ask any sound Tangkhul citizen, and I'm sure they will echo the same complaints.  LAY was bold enough to highlight the issue in the form of a discussion between the actors in the beginning scene of the movie.

Another issue that the movie highlight is the problem of extortions from business people and rich people, eventually leading to kidnappings and killings.  The rise of underground gangs without any political motive had led to the rise in the case of extortions and threatening in the recent years. The rise of bombings in and around Ukhrul district is alarming. In 2017 Ukhrul (including Kamjong) reported 5 cases of bomb explosions killing 2 people and injuring 8. There are also many reported cases of placing bombs at various shops and individuals houses as a means of threatening and giving warnings by the underground gangs.

2. Women Empowerment: LAY also brings out an important message about women empowerment. The character of Timmi Lunghar as Police Inspector (SDPO) and that of Chonchon Varah as CAO speak a lot about women empowerment. In a male-dominated society where we often confined the roles of women to a kitchen and household chores, it was refreshing to see women being portraited as officers in the movie (and where men were working under them). We hardly see women playing such characters in Tangkhul movies. In a society where we often heard ‘Ngalanao wui ot maning manei or Ngalanao na khi thei da’, the movie challenges such stigma. Given the opportunity, I'm sure Tangkhul ngalanao can be as effective and efficient as Tangkhul mayarnao.  Let us not chained them into believing that they are inferior or they cannot do things we men can do.

3. Molestation/ Sexual Abuse: In the movie, there was this one dialogue where the lead actress shouted at the actor ‘Iwui
phasa li singzakhavai mashun khipa na mi khala?’. Yes, this very bold statement needs to be heard by every one of us, especially men, to understand that without their consent you and I have no rights to touch them.

We live in a society where catcalling women and eve teasing happen a lot.  Objectifying women is a major problem in today’s world and we are not exceptional. When there are songs which refer women to ‘Sikachang Blanket’, we surely have a long way to go. I remember a few years ago, one Tangkhul artist was summoned by Tangkhul Shanao Long for his objectional lyrics which degrade the integrity of women. Let us learn how to respect women in words and in action.

The movie also had a scene where the police were checking the passing vehicles as there was a case of missing children and they suspect child trafficking. A mention was made of the real incident that had happened a few years ago where our own people were involved in the trafficking of children. An education on such trafficking issues is very much needed in all the Tangkhul areas and especially at the village level. Hopefully in the days to come, such awareness can be made possible in the form of seminars or through the means of films etc.

4. The proud Captain: In the movie, the character of the supporting actor keeps on introducing himself as Captain Ngazek, I was wondering if it was at all necessary to mention the title Captain. First of all, he is an underground where one needs to maintain secrecy, but here he is proudly introducing himself as Captain Ngazek everywhere. There was this particular scene in the movie where the actors Major Asung and Captain Ngazek met the SP of Ukhrul. While
Ngazek was proudly introducing himself as Captain Ngazek, the SP who is an IPS officer, on the other hand, was humble enough to introduce himself just by his name. The thing is, one will find a lot of Captain Ngazek amongst the NSCN IM and amongst our society. But what we really need is more of the humble SP in our society. Here I'm referring captain Ngazek to 'Khangam-Kharei, Kashang-Kathem' Tangkhuls.

5. Capital Punishment: In the movie, there are some scenes where people were called out and killed in the jungle. The people who are against the Yur are called out, gave a warning and if no heed given, are executed. The movie also has heavy dialogues such as ‘Kha Yurna
mataimeiya’, ‘Thingrong li khanuk akha thingna puta ya, yur li khanuk akha nao mei theiru pu da ra’. However, I was uncomfortable with such kind of actions both in movies as well as in real life. I’m not so sure if the movie was trying to portray the real situations or trying to warn the audience not to go against the nation and to say that the ultimate thing for those who go against Yur is death. Whatever may be the case, I think death should not only be the way to treat someone who has a different approach or ideologies against another individual or organization. I believe there are other ways to deal with it.  The movie could have come up with more discerning or strategic ideas to deal with those people and could have thrown new lights to elevate the perspective of this generation.  Capital punishment does not belong in this current generation.

Well, there goes my little observations.

I'm happy to see that Tangkhul film industries are evolving and I long to see more of great Tangkhul movies in the days to come. With the kind of contribution and the efforts that Meiphung productions are putting in, I'm sure someday down the line, they will be remembered in the history of Tangkhul film industries. And I wish them the best!

PS -  I would definitely love to see Chonchon Varah as the lead actress in the upcoming movies. Meiphung Productions, are you listening? Wink!

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