Culture

Nagaland Youth Group’s Satirical Take on Political Crisis Captures Popular Imagination

Titled ‘The Kaziranga Song’, the parody video’s humorous take on the continuing turmoil in Nagaland has fast become popular with a frustrated population.

A performance by Dreamz Unlimited-Nagaland. Credit: Special arrangement

A performance by Dreamz Unlimited-Nagaland. Credit: Special arrangement

New Delhi: The ongoing political deadlock in Nagaland between the two warring factions of the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) looks set to continue with no immediate signs of de-escalation in tensions, but a section of young, creative people are providing some amount of comic relief – at least on social media – to the public, particularly the youth, many of whom are frustrated at the present dispensation for failing to offer a stable government.

With the power struggle within the NPF raising its head all over again – the third time since the assembly elections were held in 2013 – public dissatisfaction is quite apparent on social media, with users sharing jokes, witty one-liners, humorous quizzes and memes related to the present scenario. Manyare asking how much the state MLAs have been “contributing” to the annual business of resorts near the Kaziranga National Park in neighbouring Assam.

“Kaziranga is the most heard word in our state these days. It seems our MLAs can’t sort out their differences by staying within the state. Like a nagging kid demanding something from the mother, they just rush to Kaziranga whenever they feel they can’t get it in Kohima. They have become a subject of joke and humour now, particularly for the youth of the state,” said Tiakumzuk Aier, a young drama artist from Dimapur and director of Dreamz Unlimited-Nagaland, a popular stand-up comedy and theatre group in the state.

On July 8, soon after former chief minister T.R. Zeliang sent a letter to Raj Bhavan to stake claim to form a new government along with majority of the party MLAs – turning the Shurhozelie Leizeitsu government into a minority – the rebels left the state to check into a resort in Kaziranga. The entourage included Zeliang as well. A similar thing happened when many of the same MLAs tried to topple Zeliang from chief ministership in February this year.

Building on this idea of the “Kaziranga syndrome,” Dreams Unlimited-Nagaland joined the online humour game. Based on the tune of Queen’s evergreen number ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, the number is titled ‘The Kaziranga song’ and is available on their YouTube channel.

“We seemed to have caught the mood of the people, it has got a lot of hits already,” Tiakumzuk told The Wire from Dimapur. When last checked, the four-minute song had got 37,000 hits, a large number for a small state like Nagaland.

“We are not singers but actors. Still, we decided to sing the song because we felt the message is more important, not the voice. Since we are not professional singers, we didn’t record it in a studio but put out the raw version of the song on our YouTube channel,” said Tiakumzuk.

If you hear the lyrics, written in English by one of the group members, the message is clear: satirise the “truth,” that they have “again gone to a place they always go to” – “Kaziranga obviously” – even as the people of the state are suffering due to the lack of development and opportunities. They sum up the song by stating categorically, “We all are tired and need a change now.”

“The public is enjoying the song but we also hope that the politicians get the message,” said Tiakumzuk.

Formed in 2008 after attending a workshop of National School of Drama in New Delhi, Dreams Unlimited-Nagaland “comprises of 10-11 young people, some of them work full-time while some are still students”. Together, they switch between presenting plays on stage and short acts on YouTube (they started a channel in December 2016) based on social issues.

“Though all our plays and short acts are built on social issues and give out a message, we try doing it with a comic twist. It makes our productions quite popular among the youth,” said Tiakumzuk. Besides collaborating with private partners and organising theatre workshops in educational institutions, the group also makes short films for the state government on traffic rules, prevention of child labour, malaria and so on. “But they all have humour to attract public attention,” he added.

In May this year, Dreamz Unlimited also rolled out Nagaland’s first film festival in collaboration with the government. And come July 18, it will roll out its first film too, again based on a cause.

Tiakumzuk said his group doesn’t have funds to release Nana (the title of the film) in theatre halls and will be releasing DVDs of it directly.

“It will be in Nagamese but we plan to give English subtitles sometime later to widen its audience base because the story, though set in rural Nagaland, gives out an important message about electioneering,” he said.

Tiakumzuk pointed out, “The message of the film is particularly important because the assembly elections in the state are slated for early 2018. Like in many parts of the northeast, people here too, particularly in the rural areas, sell their votes for little money during the elections. Therefore, MLAs never feel duty bound to develop their areas, they don’t feel answerable to the public and do whatever they please while the poor continue suffering.”

The film certainly takes you back to the underlying message of ‘The Kaziranga Story’.