සිවුමංසල කොලූගැටයා #164: දකුණු ආසියාව කුල්මත් කළ හුරුබුහුටි මීනා

This week’s Ravaya column (in Sinhala) is about the Meena Communication Initiative, which used animations and popular culture to discuss serious messages related to the girl child in South Asia.

I covered the same ground in an English column some weeks ago: January 2014: When Worlds Collide 96: Before Malala Came Meena…

Meena and Mithu

මීනා කෙලිලොල් හා හුරුබුහුටි දැරියක්. වයස අවුරුදු 9 – 10ක් පමණ ඇති. ඇයට වැඩිමහලූ අයියා කෙනකුත්, අතදරු වියේ පසු වන නංගි කෙනකුත් ඉන්නවා. ඇගේ මව, පියා සහ ආච්චි සමග පවුල වාසය කරන්නේ සරල ගැමි ගෙදරක. ඔවුන්ගේ ගම්මානය දකුණු ආසියාවේ යම් තැනෙක, ඕනෑම තැනෙක විය හැකියි.

ඇත්තටම කිවහොත් මීනා කාටූන් චරිතයක්. එහෙත් ගෙවී ගිය දශක දෙක පුරා මීනාගේ කථා ටෙලිවිෂන් හා චිත‍්‍රකථා පොත් හරහා රස විදින මිලියන් ගණනක් දකුණු ආසියාවේ දරු දැරියන්ට හා වැඩිහිටියන්ට නම් මීනා ඇතුඵ පවුලේ උදවිය හරියට ජීවමාන චරිත වගෙයි.

එක්සත් ජාතීන්ගේ ළමා අරමුදල හෙවත් යුනිසෙෆ් (Unicef) ආයතනය ලොව දක්‍ෂ කාටූන් ශිල්පීන් හා සන්නිවේදනක පිරිසක් සමග එක්ව නිර්මාණය කළ මීනා කථා මාලාව, මෑත කාලයේ සංවර්ධන පණිවුඩ හා ජනපි‍්‍රය සංස්කෘතිය මනා සේ යා කළ සාර්ථක උත්සාහයක්.

1990දී ලෝකයේ රාජ්‍යයන් විසින් සම්මත කර ගත් ළමා අයිතිවාසිකම් පිළිබඳ ලෝක සම්මුතියේ කියැවෙන විවිධ අයිතීන් දකුණු ආසියාතික දැරියන්ට අදාල වන ආකාරය ගැන මීනා කථාවලින් රසවත්ව විවරණය කරනු ලැබුවා. නීති හෝ පිළිවෙත් ගැන කිසිවක් සඳහන් නොකොට එය මුළුමනින් ම මතු කරන්නේ කථා හරහායි.

දකුණු ආසියාවේ (සාක් කලාපයේ) රටවල ගැහැණු දරුවන් මුහුණ දෙන අභියෝග හා ඔවුන්ට නිසි අයිතීන් හා රැකවරණය ලබා දෙන්නට සමාජයට ඇති වගකීම් ගැන සරලවත්, විචිත‍්‍රවත් කියා දෙන මීනා කථා ඇරඹුණේ 1990 දශකය මුලදී බංග්ලාදේශයෙන්. ඇගේ මාධ්‍ය චාරිකාව මුල් යුගයේ පටන් මහත් ඕනෑකමින් අධ්‍යයනය කළ කෙනකු ලෙස මා එය සැකෙවින් බෙදා ගන්නට කැමතියි.

Meena originator Neill McKee

Meena originator Neill McKee

මීනා චරිතයේ හා කථා මාලාවේ නිර්මාතෘවරයා කැනේඩියානු ජාතික සන්නිවේදක නීල් මැකී (Neill Mckee). 1990 දශකය ඇරැඹෙන විට ඔහු යුනිසෙෆ් ආයතනයේ බංග්ලාදේශ් කාර්යාලයේ සන්නිවේදන ප‍්‍රධානියාව සිටියා.

ගතානුගතික දකුණු ආසියාතික ජන සමාජයන්හි පිරිමි දරුවන්ට ලැබෙන සැළකිල්ල හා ප‍්‍රමුඛත්වය බොහෝ විට එම පවුල්වල ගැහැණු දරුවන්ට නොලැබීම යුනිසෙෆ් අවධානයට ලක්ව තිබුණා. මේ නිසා ගැහැණු දරුවන්ගේ අධ්‍යාපනය, සෞඛ්‍යය, පෝෂණය හා අනාගතය අඩාල වන බවත්, මේ සමාජයීය ආකල්ප ටිකෙන් ටික වෙනස් කළ යුතු බවත් යුනිසෙෆ් තේරුම් ගත්තා.

මෙබඳු කිදා බැස ගත් ආකල්පවලට එක එල්ලේ එරෙහි වීම හෝ පණ්ඩිත විවේචන කිරීම සාර්ථක නොවන බවත් නීල් මැකී දැන සිටියා. කථාන්දර ස්වරූපයෙන්, ලිහිල් විලාසයකින් මේ ගැඹුරු පණිවුඩය ගෙන යාමට යුනිසෙෆ් තීරණය කළා.

මේ වන විට සාර්ක් කලාපයේ රාජ්‍යයන් ද මේ ගැන අවධානය යොමු කර තිබුණා. 1990 වසර ගැහැණු දරුවන් පිළිබඳ සාක් වර්ෂය (SAARC Year of Girl Child) ලෙස නම් කරනු ලැබුවා.

මීනා චෙකොස්ලොවාකියාවේ ප‍්‍රාග් නුවර දී පිළිසිඳ ගෙන, බංග්ලාදේශයේ අගනුවර ඩාකාහිදී උපත ලැබුවා යයි කිව හැකියි. හේතුව මේ අදහස මුලින්ම මැකීගේ මනසට ආවේ ප‍්‍රාග් නුවර සමුඵවකට සහභාගී වන අතර බැවින්.

ආපසු ඩාකා නුවරට පැමිණි මැකී සෙසු කාර්ය මණ්ඩලයත් සමග දිගින් දිගට මේ ගැන සාකච්ඡා කළා. හුරුබුහුටි දැරියක් කථා නායිකාව කර ගෙන, ඇගේ පවුල හා ගම පසුබිම් කර ගත් කාටූන් කථා මාලාවක් නිර්මාණය කරන්නට ඔවුන් තීරණය කළා. මේ සඳහා ආයතනය තුළ අරමුදල් නොසෑහුණු බැවින් විවිධ ආධාර ආයතනවලින් එයට මුදල් සොයා ගන්නට ද මැකී වෙහෙසුණා.

ආණ්ඩු සාමාජිකත්වය දරණ අන්තර් රාජ්‍ය ආයතනයක් ලෙස යුනිසෙෆ් කි‍්‍රයාත්මක වන්නේ රජයන්ගේ අනුදැනුම ඇතිවයි. දකුණු ආසියාවේ කොයි කාටත් තේරෙන, සමීප නමක් සෙවූ යුනිසෙෆ් කණ්ඩායම මීනා නම තෝරාගෙන එයට සාක් රටවල නිල අනුමැතිය ලබා ගත්තා.

Best friends - Meena and Mithu

Best friends – Meena and Mithu

කථා රසය වැඩි කරන්නට මීනාට සුරතල් සතෙකු සිටිය යුතු යයි ඔවුන් තීරණය කළා. මුලින් යෝජනා වූයේ හීලෑ කළ රිලා පැටවෙකු වුවත් එයට ශී‍්‍ර ලංකා රාජ්‍ය නියෝජිතයන් එකඟ නොවු නිසා කටකාර ගිරවකු තෝරා ගත් බව මැකී ලියා තිබෙනවා. මිතූ (Mithu) යයි නමක් දෙනු ලැබු මේ ගිරවා මීනා යන සැම තැනම යන, ඇයට ඉතා ලෙන්ගතු සුරතලෙක්.

මීනාගේ පෙනුම හා ඇඳුම් ද හැම දකුණු ආසියාතික රටකට ම සමීප වීම සඳහා නිර්මාණකරුවන් විශේෂ උත්සාහයක් ගත්තා. සාරියක්, සල්වා කමීසයක් වැනි සංස්කෘතික වශයෙන් එක් රටකට දෙකකට ආවේණික ඇඳුමක් වෙනුවට එතරම් සුවිශේෂි නොවන ලිහිල් කලිසමක් හා කමිසයක් ඇයට ලබා දුන්නා.

මේ පෙනුම ඇතුළු අනෙක් සියුම් කාරණා නිර්ණය කිරීමට පෙර ඉතා පුළුල්ව මත විමසීම් ගවේෂණ කරනු ලැබුවා. සාක් රටවල කුඩා කණ්ඩායම් රැස්වීම් 200ක් පමණ පවත්වා බාල හා වැඩිහිටි 10,000කට වැඩි පිරිසකගේ රුචි අරුචිකම් විමසා බැලූ බව මැකී කියනවා.

මෙතරම් පේ‍්‍රක්‍ෂක පර්යේෂණ මත පදනම්ව නිර්මාණය වූ කාටූන් කථා අපේ කලාපයේ දුර්ලභයි. (එහෙත් වෝල්ට් ඩිස්නි වැනි ලොකු සමාගම් අළුත් නිර්මාණයක් කරන්නට පෙර සැම විටම පුළුල්ව පර්යේෂණ කරනවා.)

මීනා වසන ගම්මානයත් දකුණු ආසියාවේ ඕනෑම රටක තිබිය හැකි ආකාරයේ පෙනුමක් සහිතයි. ගතානුගතික වැඩවසම් මානසිකත්වය ඇති අය මෙන් ම වඩාත් විවෘත මනසකින් යුතු පාසල් ගුරුවරිය වැනි චරිත ද එහි හමු වනවා.

Meena chief animator Ram Mohan

Meena chief animator Ram Mohan

මේ චරිත රූප බවට පත් කොට කාටූන් කථා බිහි කරන්නට යුන්සෙෆ් ඇරයුම් කළේ ඉන්දියාවේ ප‍්‍රවීණතම කාටූන් චිත‍්‍රපට අධ්‍යක්‍ෂවරයෙකු වූ රාම් මෝහන්ටයි ( Ram Mohan). ඔහු 1956 සිට මේ ක්‍ෂෙත‍්‍රයේ නියැලී සිටි කෙනෙක්. උපදේශක මට්ටමින් ඇමරිකාවේ ප‍්‍රකට කාටූන් සමාගමක් වන හැනා-බාබරා චිත‍්‍රාගාරය (Hanna-Barbera Productions) ද ෆිලීපිනයේ ෆිල්කාටූන් සමාගම (Fil-Cartoons) ද සම්බන්ධ කර ගනු ලැබුවා. එහෙත් මේ නිර්මාණය 90%ක්ම දකුණු ආසියාතික නිර්මාණයක්.

‘‘අප විවිධාකාර හැඩතල නිර්මාණය කරමින් විවිධ ජන පිරිස් වලට ඒවා පෙන්නුවා. ඔවුන් වැඩි දෙනෙකු පි‍්‍රය කළ රසය එකතු කොට මීනාගේ පවුල, ගම හා කථා මාලාව බිහි කළා’’ රාම් මෝහන් කියනවා. මෙය වසර දෙකක් ගත වූ සාමුහික ව්‍යායාමයක්.

මුල් ම මීනා කථාව වූයේ Count Your Chicken (කුකුළු පැටවුන් ගණන් කරමු). අයියා (රාජු) පාසල් යවන නමුත් ගැහැණු දරුවෙකු නිසා මීනා පාසල් නොයවා ගෙදර තබා ගන්නවා. ඒත් අයියා පසුපස පාසල දක්වා යන මීනා, පන්ති කාමරයට පිටත සිට පාඩම් අසා සිටිනවා. එසේ දුර සිට උගත් ගණන් කිරීමේ හැකියාව ප‍්‍රායෝගිකව පාවිච්චි කොට කුකුල් හොරකු අල්ලා දෙන මීනා ගැන පැහැදෙන ඇගේ දෙමවුපියෝ ප‍්‍රමාද වී හෝ ඇයත් පාසල් යවනවා.

දෙවැනි කථාවට පාදක වූයේ රසවත් අඹ ගෙඩියක් ගෙදර ගෙනවිත් එයින් වැඩි පංගුව අයියාටත් ඇබිත්තක් පමණක් මීනාටත් දීමේ සිද්ධියයි. ගැහැණු දරුවාට එළිපිටම අඩු සැළකිලි දීමේ සම්ප‍්‍රදාය මේ කථාවෙන් හීන් සීරුවේ අභියෝගයට ලක් කැරෙනවා.

විනාඩි 10-15ක් පමණ දිගට දිවෙන මීනා කාටූන් කථා මුල් වටයේ 13ක් නිර්මාණය කළා. ඒවා ඉංගී‍්‍රසි, හින්දි, උර්දු, බංග්ලා, නේපාලි, දෙමළ, සිංහල වැනි භාෂා ගණනාවකට හඬ කවා එක් එක් රටවල ටෙලිවිෂන් නාලිකාවලට නොමිලයේ බෙදා හරිනු ලැබුවා.

Who's Afraid of the Bully

Who’s Afraid of the Bully

ප‍්‍රතිශක්තිකරණය, සනීපාරක්‍ෂාව, බාල වයස්කරුවන්ගෙන් වැඩ ගැනීම, ආපදාවලින් සුරැකීම, සෙල්ලම් කිරීමට දරු දැරියන්ට ඇති අයිතිය, අඩු වයසින් දැරියන් විවාහ කර දීම, HIV/AIDSවලින් ආරක්‍ෂා වීම වැනි තේමා යටතේ මීනා කාටූන් කථා නිපදවනු ලැබුවා. ඒ හැම එකක්ම සංවේදීව හා නිවැරදිව අදාල කරුණු කථානුසාරයෙන් ඉදිරිපත් කළා. මෙය ලෙහෙසි පහසු වැඩක් නොවෙයි.

ටෙලිවිෂන් කාටූන් මාලාවට අමතරව එම කථා චිත‍්‍ර කථා පොත් පෙළක් ලෙස ද මුද්‍රණය කොට විවිධ භාෂාවලින් බෙදා හරිනු ලැබුවා. බංග්ලාදේශය මුල් කර ගෙන ඇරඹුණත් 1995 වන විට මීනා සන්නිවේදන ව්‍යාපෘතිය සියළු සාක් රටවලට ව්‍යාප්ත වුණා.

එහිදී වැදගත් මෙහෙවරක් ඉටු කළේ මීනා ව්‍යාපෘති කළමනාකරු ලෙස කත්මන්ඩු නුවර යුන්සෙෆ් දකුණු ආසියාතික කලාපීය කාර්යාලයට පත්ව ආ කි‍්‍රස්ටියන් ක්ලාක් (Christian Clark). කලකට පෙර ලෝක ප‍්‍රකට සෙසමි ස්ටී‍්‍රට් ළමා ටෙලිවිෂන් වැඩසටහනේ පිටපත් රචකයෙකු හා කාටුන් ශිල්පියෙකු ද වූ ඔහු කාටුන් හරහා සමාජයට වැදගත් තොරතුරු හා පණීවුඩ දීමේ විභවය මනාව හඳුනාගෙන සිටියා.

‘කිසි විටෙක කථා රසය පලූදු වන ආකාරයෙන් තොරතුරු වැඩි කිරීමට හෝ පණිවුඩ දීමේ අරමුණින් දේශනා පැවැත්වීමට හෝ අප ඉඩ දුන්නේ නැහැ,’ මා හමු වූ විටෙක ඔහු ආවර්ජනය කළා.

කෙටි කලකින් මීනා කථා දකුණු ආසියාව පුරා කෙතරම් ජනපි‍්‍රය වී ද යත් එය ආදර්ශයට ගෙන සාරා නම් අපි‍්‍රකානු කථා මාලාවක් ද පසුව නිර්මාණය කරනු ලැබුවා. ඒ හරහා මෙබඳු ම වැදගත් පණිවුඩ අපි‍්‍රකානු සමාජයන්ට දෙන්නට යුන්සෙෆ් අපි‍්‍රකානු කාර්යාල උත්සාහ කළා. මීනාට වඩා ටිකක් වැඩිමහලූ සාරා දැරියට වයස 13යි. සිංගෝ නම් හුරතල් රිලා පැටියෙකු ඇයට සිටිනවා.

‘කාටූන් චරිත හැටියට මීනා හා සාරා තීරණාත්මක සමාජ සන්නිවේදනයක පෙර ගමන්කරුවන් වුණා. බොහෝ ගතානුගතික සමාජවල විවෘතව එක එල්ලේ සාකච්ඡා කළ නොහැකි ආකල්ප ගැන නැවත සිතා බැලීමකට ඒ හරහා යොමු කළා.’ නීල් මැකී හා කි‍්‍රස්ටියන් ක්ලාක් පසු කලෙක සිය අත්දැකීම් සමාලෝචනය කරමින් ලියා තැබුවා.

කාටූන් නිසා ළමා මනස අයාලේ යනවා යයි සිතන අයට මීනා අළුත් මානයක් පෙන්වා දෙනවා. තවත් කාටූන් නිර්මාණකරුවන් මේ මාර්ගයේ යනවා නම් කෙතරම් අපූරුද?

මීට වසර 15කට පමණ පෙර පාලිත ලක්‍ෂ්මන් ද සිල්වා ළමා අයිතිවාසිකම් විදහා දැක්වෙන කෙටි (විනාඩියේ) කාටුන් මාලාවක් නිර්මාණය කළා. සිබිල් වෙත්තසිංහගේ චිත‍්‍ර යොදා ගෙන කළ මේ නිර්මාණය සීමිත සම්පත් හරහා මීනා ගිය මග යන්නට ගත් දේශීය උත්සාහයක්.

 

Meena: Count your Chickens

Will Meena Leave School?

Meena: Too young to Marry

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Long before Malala, there was Meena…

Meena and Mithu

Long before Malala, there was another spirited young girl named Meena.

Like Malala Yousafzai does today, Meena too spoke out for and on behalf of girls — their right to education, good health, nutrition and, most important, to be treated the same way as boys.

Like Malala, young Meena too spoke passionately yet courteously. While Malala challenged the ferocious Taliban, Meena took on the equally formidable adversary named tradition.

Malala and Meena could well have been sisters in arms — except that the latter isn’t quite real. She is a cartoon character imagined and developed by some of South Asia’s most talented animators and development communicators two decades ago.

UNICEF developed the Meena Communication Initiative (MCI) as a mass communication project aimed at changing perceptions and behaviour that hamper the survival, protection and development of girls in South Asia.

Here’s how their website describes Meena:

“Meena is a cartoon character from South Asia. She is a spirited, nine-year-old girl who braves the world – whether in her efforts to go to school or in fighting the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in her village.”

UNICEF launched Meena in September 1998 after eight years of extensive research in the region since the initial conceptualization. The name Meena was carefully chosen as it was found to span the different cultures in the region: people in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal,  Pakistan and Sri Lanka could relate to the name.

meena-1

A cast of carefully researched characters was created for Meena’s family and community. It included Meena’s talkative pet parrot Mithu, brother Raju, mom and dad, grandma and village school teacher.

There was no fundamentalist group threatening Meena’s village. Instead, it was grappling with poverty, ignorance and orthodoxy.

The Meena stories are entertaining and fun, but also reflect the realities of girls’ lives in South Asia. Through story-telling, important social messages are conveyed, such as the value of educating girls, freedom from exploitation and abuse, need for hygiene and proper sanitation, and the right of girls to a proper childhood not marred by under-age marriages.

In total, 13 Meena episodes were produced through a collaboration that involved Ram Mohan Studios of Mumbai and Hanna-Barbera affiliate Fil Cartoons of Manila.

Three examples:

Meena: Will Meena Leave School?

Meena: Count Your Chickens

Meena: Too Young to Marry

Meena is widely recognised and appreciated in most South Asian countries, and is a successful advocacy and teaching tool for girls’ and children’s rights. The Meena figure has achieved remarkable popularity as she tackles the key issues affecting children, and the threats to the rights of millions of girls in South Asia.

See also: September 2007: Shimu: Bangladesh’s real life ‘Meena’ enthralls millions on TV

Images and videos courtesy Unicef

New-and-improved Tinker Bell: UN’s latest Honorary Ambassador of Green

Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure

Now she's green inside and out!


I always thought Tinker Bell was a bit green — with envy, that is. Peter Pan’s faithful fairy sidekick was far too possessive of him: every time another female appeared to get close, Tink would try to chase her away. She typifies the Jealous Female.

And now, Tinker Bell is very officially green, too: The United Nations has just named the Disney animated character Tinker Bell an “Honorary Ambassador of Green” to help promote environmental awareness among children.

The announcement came just prior to a screening at UN Headquarters in New York of the world premiere of the Walt Disney animated film, “Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure.”

In the new movie, being released on DVD and BluRay on 27 October 2009, the feisty fairy first seen in 1953’s Peter Pan classic animation movie finally gets a makeover for her journey away from the magical land of Pixie Hollow.

The new and improved Tink looks more tomboyish: more of her body is covered in clothes, yet she still retains her curvy figure. “We wanted to make Tink as real as possible in Lost Treasure,” says director Klay Hall. “It made sense she was going to put on a jacket, leggings and boots. This is sort of a new phase for Tink, and the look brings her up to the current feeling we are trying to convey,” such as the belt she uses to carry items she needs.

Tomboyish yet curvy...“We’re delighted Tinker Bell has agreed to be our Honorary Ambassador of Green,” said Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information. “This beloved animated character can help us inspire kids and their parents to nurture nature and do what they can to take care of the environment.”

The UN event was intended to promote environmental awareness in the lead-up to the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December, where countries will aim to ‘seal the deal’ on a new global agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Protecting the environment is an underlying theme of the Tinker Bell movies, according to the UN Department of Public Information (DPI), which finds that the Walt Disney Company uses its storytelling to inspire a love of nature and spirit of conservation in its audience.

In the latest film, Tinker Bell’s greatest adventure takes place in autumn, as the fairies in Pixie Hollow are busy changing the colours of the leaves, tending to pumpkin patches and helping geese fly south for the winter. When Tinker Bell accidentally puts all of Pixie Hollow in jeopardy, she must venture out on a secret quest to set things right.

Tinker Bell Director Klay Hall, Producer Sean Lurie and cast members Mae Whitman (Tinker Bell) and Raven Symoné (Iridessa) were among those attending the premiere, hosted by DPI as part of the Secretary-General’s Creative Community Outreach Initiative.

The Initiative links the UN and producers, directors, writers and new media professionals seeking a working relationship with the world body with the goal of raising awareness of critical global issues.

Well, I can think of one Big Challenge for the creative community worldwide: find some way, any way, to ‘animate’ (i.e. bring to life!) the chronically dull and dour Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN, who in his own admission is often invisible!

But hey, some feats are beyond even the most creative people! So just enjoy these two online videos…

Tinker Bell and The Lost Treasure: First 6 Minutes

Disney’s TinkerBell Named UN “HONORARY AMBASSADOR OF GREEN”

Animating and singing our way to a Low Carbon Future…

Low Carbon, High Priority

Low Carbon, High Priority

Some 100 world leaders are due to gather at the United Nations headquarters in New York this week for the highest level summit meeting on climate change ever convened.

As the New York Times reported: “In convening the meeting, the United Nations is hoping that collectively the leaders can summon the will to overcome narrow nationalinterests and give the negotiators the marching orders needed to cut at least the outline of a deal.”

Recognising climate change as one of the greatest social, economic, political and environmental challenges facing our generation, the British Council has launched the Low Carbon Futures project. It has focus on mitigating the effects of climate change in an urban environment. It is part of the British Council’s major global climate security project and India is, along with China, one of the top two priority countries for this work. Sri Lanka, with less than 2% of India’s population and correspondingly lower carbon emissions, is a lower priority.

One strand in the Low Carbon Futures project is to engage communications professionals – journalists, writers and film makers to help them better understand the issues around mitigation and get across key messages to readers/viewers more effectively.

As part of this project, the British Council collaborated with Music Television (MTV) to produce a music video and two viral video animations on climate friendly, low-carbon lifestyles.

British Council’s first Music Video on Climate Change produced by MTV features VJ Cyrus Sahukar. Combining animation, lyrics and melody, the video talks about how small individual actions can help conserve natural resources and save the climate. MTV VJs have a cult following and the video ends with Cyrus Sahukar, MTV’s face in India, encouraging young people to take that first step. The video was launched in New Delhi on 1 June 2009 in the presence of 50 International Climate Champions from across India & Sri Lanka.

According to the British Council India website, “The video has created a flutter and there is growing demand to screen the video on various institutional networks across India and even outside fulfilling higher level objectives of impacting young urban aspirants. Young Indians are an emerging generation who are ambitious and internationally minded with the potential to be future leaders. The MTV video aims to influence this influential group.”

The Low Carbon Futures project has also released two short, powerful, animated messages that are ‘tongue-in-cheek’- making use of everyday events with a touch of humour. “We are hoping that the messages will be seen as creative, funny and innovative to tempt the recipient to forward it to their peer group. As the virus spreads, so will the message. The British High Commission and the The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) are also promoting these virals to spread the message amongst the staff members and their external audiences,” says the project website.

The first viral video animation is called Green Journey, and shows a little known benefit of car pooling. Its blurb reads, simply: Meet 3 Mr Rights on the wrong side of the road!

The second viral video animation is called Play Cupid, and gives us one more reason to plant more trees! Blurb: Lets leave the young couples in peace and solitude of nature!

Watch out for more interesting videos from British Council India’s YouTube channel.

Buzz and Bite: PSA campaign against relentless malaria

We tried DDT for half a century. Now try PSA...

We tried DDT for half a century. Now try PSA...

Today is World Malaria Day. It’s a day to reflect on an ancient disease that continues to kill and sicken so many people in the majority (developing) world.

Malaria accounts for one death every 30 seconds. Malaria kills more than 1 million people every year. Each year, between 350 million and 500 million people are infected with malaria.

Malaria plagued Europe and North America as recently as 60 years ago. Simple public health measures were crucial to eliminating the disease and helping those regions achieve growth, prosperity and stability. Many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America have yet to achieve this level of control.

Public health officials have been trying to contain and control malaria for decades, most measures targeting the malaria vector mosquitoes. In recent years, educators have joined hands — for stopping malaria begins with awareness on how it spreads and what simple measures can be taken to prevent it.

The Buzz and Bite Campaign is one such awareness tool launched a year ago on World Malaria Day 2008. It consists of a series of 30 animated shorts and 5 audio shorts called Public Service Announcements (PSAs).

The Buzz and Bite Campaign is the creation of Canadian animation producer and director Firdaus Kharas, working with a team of skilled professionals. Firdaus earlier took on another public health challenge, HIV/AIDS, through his highly popular animation series The Three Amigos.

Watch a sample Buzz and Bite Spot (in English, British Accent)

According to the Buzz and Bite website, PSAs have so far been produced in 22 languages, and are being adapted into more. “The goal is to enable a potential reach of 80% of the world’s malaria at-risk population or over 5 billion people in their own language.”

See all language versions on Buzz and Bite channel on YouTube

The PSAs are available to any television broadcaster, radio station, NGO, hospital, doctor, community group, university, school, educator or other user, free of charge, anywhere in the world.

The campaign is strongly supported by Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu.

Malaria has been eradicated in many parts of the world but continues to thrive and even grow in other parts, especially in tropical areas. “This anti-malaria campaign focuses on sub-Saharan Africa (where up to 90 per cent of all malaria fatalities occur), on South America, and on South and South-East Asia, where the rates of malaria are alarmingly high,” says the website, adding: “Malaria is preventable. The easiest and cheapest way to prevent malaria infection is through the use of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed-nets (LLINs) which can last up to 5 years. This campaign promotes the use of nets.”

You heard the buzz...Now get ready for bite!

You heard the buzz...Now get ready for bite!

Images and video courtesy Buzz and Bite campaign

Crisis of Credit: The story of bright, greedy bankers with no common sense…

A complex crisis made simple...

A complex crisis made simple...

At the height of the Cold War, some of the best brains in both the United States and the now extinct USSR worked for their respective nation’s nuclear weapons development and maintenance work. They were basically driven by Mutually Assured Destruction, a doctrine of military strategy in which a full-scale use of nuclear weapons by two opposing sides would effectively result in the destruction of both the attacker and the defender. It was appropriately abbreviated as M.A.D.

The men (it was mostly if not entirely male) with these deadly toys have been described as very smart people with no common sense. They’ve been the subject of much study, commentary and satire — Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 black comedy film Dr Strangelove among them.

Where would very smart men with no common sense (and few, if any, scruples) find work in the post Cold War period? Looks like some of them went into banking!

How else could we explain the deadly games played by bankers that triggered the credit crisis which has snowballed into a global economic recession affecting us all?

Sub-prime mortgages, collateralised debt obligations, frozen credit markets and credit default swaps. These terms are now being bandied around but a year ago, few had heard of them and even now, how many of us non-bankers understand what they mean?

Aren’t they the weapons of mass destruction of our times? While the nukes were well guarded and their use was tightly controlled (with only a few near misses over decades), where was regulatory oversight when bankers accumulated toxic credit over time?

In September 2008, I wrote a blog called Financial Meltdown: Putting pieces together of a gigantic whodunnit with links to some current affairs documentaries that tried to explain what was happening. In December 2008, I named the American blogger, investigative journalist and film-maker Danny Schechter as Moving Images Person of the Year for his relentless, now prophetic work cautioning about the coming credit crisis from years ago.

Now, design artist Jonathan Jarvis has come up with a brilliant animation that tells the ‘Short and Simple Story of the Credit Crisis’.

Watch it on YouTube: Crisis of Credit, part 1 of 2

Crisis of Credit, part 2 of 2

Here’s his description:
The goal of giving form to a complex situation like the credit crisis is to quickly supply the essence of the situation to those unfamiliar and uninitiated. This project was completed as part of my thesis work in the Media Design Program, a graduate studio at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.

For more on his thesis work exploring the use of new media to make sense of a increasingly complex world, visit jonathanjarvis.com

See also: Prudent Banking 101: A lesson from Mary Poppins

Anyone can make video film, right? Why do we need professionals?

Anyone can cook, right?

Anyone can cook, right?

I really enjoyed the Disney/Pixar film Ratatouille (2007), which won the year’s best animated feature film Oscar award and deserved it.

Here’s the plot summary from IMDB: Remy is a young rat in the French countryside who arrives in Paris, only to find out that his cooking idol is dead. When he makes an unusual alliance with a restaurant’s new garbage boy, the culinary and personal adventures begin despite Remy’s family’s skepticism and the rat-hating world of humans. Read full synopsis on IMDB

The movie opens with a TV show featuring Chef Auguste Gusteau, owner of the best restaurant in Paris, talking about his bestselling cookbook, which proudly bears his mantra “Anyone Can Cook!”

Well, that’s heretical to the fine artistes of gourmet. But it’s revived the age old debate between fully-trained professionals and new-entrant amateurs, and inspired some interesting discussions online. One blogger thought: “Remy the rat is a perfect metaphor for the non-expert Web 2.0 knowledge maker. He has no credentials and must prove himself through his actual knowledge and application of knowledge rather than through credentials.”

He added: “What’s the moral of the story? Even without being an acknowledged expert on a topic, if you work hard to express your ideas in clever ways, you too can be respected for what you know.”

I’ve only just read these views, but they resonate with what I felt when I watched the movie in late 2007. The story certainly reminded me of a heated debate in my own field of moving images: can anybody and everybody make video, now that the tech barriers and costs have come down? If this is the case, what’s the point of having highly trained, better paid professionals who do it for a living?

I shan’t try to resolve that debate here. But here’s an interesting take on the debate from the Onion News Network. They report: YouTube is offering a cash prize to the first user to upload a video with a shred of originality or artistic merit.

Encounter with Anpanman: A superman made of bread!

Anpanman is one of the most popular anime cartoon series in Japan

Anpanman is one of the most popular anime cartoon series in Japan

Last month, on my way to the Tokyo headquarters of NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, I stopped at the Tokyo Tower for a bit of sight-seeing.

A communications tower located in Shiba Park, Minato, Tokyo, the Tokyo Tower is 332.6 meters (1,091 ft) tall – which makes it the tallest self-supporting steel structure in the world. Built in 1958, this Eiffel Tower-like structure supports an antenna that broadcasts television and radio signals for important Japanese media outlets including NHK, TBS and Fuji TV.

At the base of the tower, I had an unexpected encounter with an old friend. I know him as Gnana Katha Malliya, the name given to him in the Sinhalese adaptation that I watch on Sri Lankan television.

But everyone in Japan knows him by his original name: Anpanman. He is one of the most popular anime cartoon series (manga) in Japan. It is produced by Nippon Television Network Corporation.

Anpanman is the creation of Takashi Yanase, a Japanese writer of children’s stories. Each animated cartoon is approximately 24 minutes long, split into 2 episodes of approximately 12 minutes each.

Yanase has been writing Anpanman since 1968. He became inspired by the idea of Anpanman while struggling to survive as a soldier in World War II. He had frequently faced the prospect of starvation which made him dream about eating a bean-jam filled pastry called Anpan.

Anpanma is indeed a superman made by a baker. His head is a bun made by Jam Ojisan, a kind-hearted baker. He was created when a shooting star landed in Jam Ojisan’s oven while he was baking.

Anpanma’s name comes from the fact that he is a man with a head made of bread that is filled with bean jam called an anpan. His weakness is water or anything that makes his head dirty. He regains his health and strength when Jam Ojisan bakes him a new head and it is placed on his shoulders. Anpanman’s damaged head, with Xs in his eyes, flies off his shoulders once a new baked head lands.

The most endearing attribute of Anpanman is his sense of sacrifice. When he comes across a starving creature or person, he lets the unfortunate creature or person eat part of his head. Jam Ojisan has to keep baking an endless supply of heads for our hero.

And it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘eat my head off’.

Baikinman is the villain in the stories. He comes from the “Germ World” and is the leader of the viruses. His name means “Germ Man”, and his ambition is to destroy Anpanman and turn the planet into another “Germ World”.

Read about other characters in Anpanma

Anpanman (R) and Baikinman at the Tokyo Tower

Anpanman (R) and Baikinman at the Tokyo Tower

According to the Wikipedia, as of September 2006, Anpanman’s books had collectively sold over 50 million copies in Japan.

The Anpanman television series is called Soreike! Anpanman (meaning ‘Go! Anpanman’) – it has been on the air in Japan since 1988. More than 800 episodes have been made to date. There are also 18 cinematic films featuring the characters.

According to the Japanese toy company Bandai, Anpanma is the most popular fictional character from age 0 to 12 years in Japan.

As I found out, Anpanman is such a cultural icon in Japan that his images adorn railway carriages, and there is an Anpanman museum opened in Yokohama in 2007.

Anpanman is also popular in many countries across Asia. He has a large following in China and Korea, where the comics and TV series have been a popular Japanese cultural export for years.

And, as it turns out, I’d been enjoying his exploits on Sri Lankan television for years without even knowing his original Japanese name! This reinforces the point I made in Feb 2008, writing about another favourite character Madeline – originally French, but whom I encountered on a visit to Manila and Los Banos in January this year.

I wrote: “It’s becoming impossible to discern or define what is ‘local’ anymore in this rapidly globalising and integrating world. Sociologists and communication researchers who split hairs about preserving ‘local content’ have a romanticised notion that is hard to find in the real world.”


Read my Feb 2008 blog: What’s local in our mixed up, globalised world?


Watch a sample story: Anpanman to Hamigakiman

Don’t say a word: Men, women and Bruno Bozzetto

I just wrote a blog post titled Children of Heaven: Appreciating the sound of silence. Reviewing the 1997 movie by Majid Majidi, I remarked about his strategic use of silences in his soundtrack – we must never underestimate its power in the right place.

Other creators of moving images do their magic with a good sound track – but sometimes without using a word of dialog. Here’s a clever example I’ve found on YouTube – it is by Italy’s leading animator, Bruno Bozzetto (photos below, courtesy Bruno Bozzetto website).

Bruno Bozzetto

Titled Femminile & Maschile (Feminine and Masculine), this 2-D animation was made in 2004. I can’t find a synopsis online, but one website introduced it simply as follows: Some situations that show the difference of behaviour between men and women in the everyday life.

Anyone with a sense of humour can appreciate this piece – and I hope that includes die-hard feminists…

Here’s the intro from Wikipedia:
Bruno Bozzetto (born March 3, 1938 in Milan, Italy) is an Italian cartoon animator, creator of many short pieces, mainly of a political or satirical nature. He created his first animated short “Tapum! the weapons’ story” in 1958 at the age of 20. His most famous character, a hapless little man named “Signor Rossi” (Mr. Rossi), has been featured in many animated shorts as well as starring in three feature films: “Mr. Rossi Looks for Happiness” (1976), “Mr. Rossi’s Dreams” (1977), and “Mr. Rossi’s Vacation” (1977). Read the rest of his profile on Wikipedia

Earlier this week, to mark Earth Day on 22 April 2008, I took part in a half hour, live interview with Sri Lanka’s highest rated, most popular channel, Sirasa TV. I wanted to relate the global to not just the local but also to the individual and family level. To discuss how our lifestyle choices and consumer decisions affect that planet, I used a series of brilliant cartoon animations that Bruno Bozzetto had done some years ago for WWF.

Again, without having his characters utter a single word, Bozzetto gives out profound messages through images and musical sound track. This is why I keep saying that when it comes to the sheer economy of words, we writers just can’t beat cartoonists.

Sorry, I can’t locate these anywhere online (YouTube lists dozens of his other creations, but not this series — which I can’t even find on his own website.) It’s time for someone to revive this series, for their message is even more relevant for today’s climate-challenged world…

Bruno Bozzetto entry on Internet Movie Database
Visit the official website of Bruno Bozzetto
Watch other Bruno Bozzetto short animations online

Grasshoppers for Earth Day!

Earth Day 2008 Earth Day 2008

Today is Earth Day. It’s especially observed in the United States, where it originated in 1970 as an apolitical event to rally everyone around to the call for a cleaner, safer environment.

Rather than talk anything environmental, I just want to share a brilliant animation produced by the famous Italian animator Bruno Bozzetto.

It’s called Grasshoppers. It takes a satirical look at the rise of our species in a historical context – and reminds us of our place.

Synopsis: In the natural course of earth’s evolution, five or a thousand years represent just a handful of seconds. What is mankind’s role in this infinite stage?

Grasshoppers received an Oscar nomination in 1991 in the animation shorts section.

Visit Bruno Bozzetto official website