I woke up in the morning to the sound of "Pehli Nazar Mein" from the Abbas - Mustan movie Race, playing on the radio. Or so I thought. When I listened closely, it turned out to be the exact same tune but with lyrics in the local language, Dhivehi.
by Agney Mulay
When in Male, this is a fairly common occurrence. It is very normal to walk into a shop and hear the familiar tune of “Mere Sapno Ki Raani Kab Aayegi Tu” playing whilst the singer croons in Dhivehi. And the locals are also familiar with most of the popular Bollywood tunes.
The Maldivian people, especially the older generations are very fond of watching old Hindi movies as well as the songs by artistes such as Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi, Asha Bhonsle and Lata Mangeshkar. Most popular Maldivian songs are greatly influenced and often exact imitations of well known Hindi songs. In fact many local movies are also blatant copies of Bollywood films. This can be attributed to the fact that Maldivians have a feeling of familiarity with Northern India due to similarities in the language. Many local dance forms are also inspired by Indian dance forms such as Kathak.
While it is mildly amusing and outrageous at the same time for an outsider to observe these facets of Maldivian culture, it is sad that the local film and music industry has restricted itself to copying Indian cinema and music. There are some major reasons for this phenomenon. The audience, which comprises of slightly elder people, is not receptive to new forms of cinema or music, thus encouraging commercialization. The industry is monopolized by a few individuals who are more concerned with recovering their costs which drives them to imitate an already successful Bollywood movie.
Moreover films are also subjected to harsh censorship and this often destroys important aspects of the film, subsequently inhibiting the growth of new ideas and talent. The established names are content with their films breaking even and newcomers are reluctant to even dip their toes into the industry. To a great extent, religious constraints have also restricted the development of these industries.
However, all hope is not lost. The emergence of Maldivian youth and increased exposure to western culture has given birth to a new breed of artistes. The foreign influence from the island resorts and other visitors has also played a vital part in this development. This new generation is not afraid to experiment with new styles and genres of music. Artistes like Fasylive are well established names even in the UK and are giving a new meaning to the term rock ‘n roll.
Thrash metal is also popular among the youth, although often dismissed by the general public as noise. Zero Degree Atoll, although no longer playing as a band, has had a deep impact on the people of the Maldives. They incorporate storytelling into their songs and a great ethnic Maldivian influence is visible, which has awed listeners of all generations.
New artistes are also making a name for themselves. R&B singer Unoosha has a massive fan following and is rumored to be making her Bollywood debut very soon.
Although the industry has a long way to go, it is making steady progress. The majority of the population is under the age of 30, and it is this youth which is fueling the development of new talent. They are breaking free from conformity and finding new ways to express themselves. The audience is also slowly opening up to new forms of expression and showing appreciation for it.
A revolution of ideas, thoughts and progress is underway and leading the way for a massive development in the field of art and entertainment.