In Nagaland, even as the church is making people sign pledges that they will not accept money from politicans in return for their votes, a theatre and film production company has become the talk of the town with its satirical YouTube videos to promote “clean elections”. The state goes to the polls on Tuesday.
Dreamz Unlimited, based in the Nagaland’s commercial hub of Dimapur, is no stranger to winning the internet. Last year, it gained national attention for a music video about political instability in the state that has seen four chief ministers in the last three years. Their video was a parody of the British rock band Queen’s 1975 classic Bohemian Rhapsody,
While its latest set of videos centered on the elections are unlikely to receive the same kind of attention outside of Nagaland – they are all in Nagamese – they have certainly struck a chord with the state’s urban youth. The three videos have seen a combined viewership of almost 300,000 people over the month, with people often leaving comments like “Thank you so much for such an eye opener” and “This video should be played at the City Tower.”
The videos are marked by Dreamz Unlimited’s characteristic dry wit and acerbic humour. In one of the videos titled True Lies – the most popular of the lot – a politician is seen addressing a small group of people. “And here I am to fool you again,” he begins. “Just like I have for the last five years. Will you mind?” A resounding “No, not at all” follows.
The politician avers that if they vote for him, roads will not get repaired, jobs will not be created, but they will definitely be paid handsomely. As he is cheered on loudly by the men who have assembled to hear him, he continues, “If you make me win this time, I am thinking I will go watch the FIFA World Cup in Russia this time.”
The video ends on an equally caustic note. One of the young men who has to go to the church to attend Sunday mass asks the politician to leave his share with someone else, a turn of events that points to the irony of a devout Christian – as most in Nagaland are – accepting a bribe.
In another spot called People During Election, the spotlight is on the voters, acting as a cutting commentary on how voters are as responsible for electoral corruption in Nagaland as the candidates.
Tiakunzuk Aier, the primary writer and director of the videos, said the group’s work has always been political. “We love to do our works on things that are currently happening in the state,” he said. “And in Nagaland, apart from political drama, nothing much happens so we have to pick up political satire. Our videos, dramas, they will have a touch of reality, they will not fake things.”
Dreamz Unlimited started off in 2008 when Aier and a couple of others met at a theatre workshop conducted by the National School of Drama in Dimapur. Since then, their work has consistently borrowed from the state’s tumultuous politics.
Aier said that Dreamz Unlimited’s favourite form was satire. But sometimes, he said, “you have to be more direct, particularly if you are working for someone else”. So when the state election commission roped them in to produce the “anthem” for the elections slated on February 27, the group came up with a fairly straightforward production.
The song titled Sapna dangor eta ase – We have a bog dream has much of Dreamz Unlimited’s signature pluck but minus the satirical overtones its videos usually carry. Irrespective, it seems to have worked –over 100,000 people have viewed it on YouTube since it was released last month.
Apart from the anthem, Dreamz Unlimted has also made a short film called Firm for the state Election Commission. As the name suggests, the film urges people to stand firm on the promise of clean elections and not get carried away by lucrative offers.
Dreamz Unlimited’s election motif in its work, however, goes beyond just the upcoming polls. Its first film, Nana – A Tale of Us, Aier said, was also set around the elections.
What explains this preoccupation with elections? “Whatever it is, at the end of the day we are Nagas. It is a moral responsibility for us to do something for our state,” said Aiyer. “We are practising free and fair elections. If even a few people make up their minds to do so too through our work and follow us, it will be a blessing.”