The Tamna Tamna Video (Critical Analysis and Dissection)
By Ningombam Captain
Nothing is found fresh nowadays, not even the superficially attractive vegetables at the market. We should tell the pan-chewing shopkeeper that peeling off the outer flesh of an old carrot and making it look more red (redder than his mouth) doesn’t make it any more fresh. Glam can never triumph over innate grace or goodness. Not only in the case of carrots, most of the Manipuri music videos or “albums” (a widely-mistaken catachresis for “music videos”) these days are arguably unoriginal and overproduced. And sometimes uncaring for the semantics of the music and lyrics, these “albums” employ the outrageous just for the sake of gaining popularity, despite being colorful and - as Holden Caulfield would’ve disapproved of me - grand! It is indeed a rare find to encounter a Manipuri music video laden with the right amount of originality or as per my defunct analogy - a fresh carrot.
The “carrot seller” who was the main talk of the town for the past couple of weeks, who also happens to be one of the most prominent indie music videographers in Manipur, is Edwin Haorokcham. For this article, it is not important to mention that he is a member in two active rock bands currently. Instead, let me introduce him as the director, editor....or let’s just say the Orson Welles of the spectacular videos of Lai Lik Lei’s “Esei”, Singju Joint’s “Lit up the sky”, and Solace Her’s “Tamna Tamna”, which is viewed 757,000 times (and still counting) on Youtube.
“Tamna Tamna” ‘s music video features Texas and Prinalini Thingom as the two main leads, with Chingangbam Shrikant in a cameo role as a news anchor. Over a runtime of almost 10 minutes, it depicts the story of an ill-fated love between an average lad and a seemingly ingenious girl who is revealed to be an undercover agent of a terrorist organization, which then ends with the former hesitantly killing the latter, and eventually taking his own life. The video catapulted the accompanying song to mainstream popularity. I find many of the local indie music purists in the circle expressing their appreciation for the video, and a cover spree also followed on Youtube shortly after its release. The band that was unheard of before the 19th of March, 2019 became the epicenter of the local music scene, and also earned themselves an appearance on Impact TV’s Manung Hutna. The debut brought them local stardom; like a miniature version of the famous “Is This It” and the then-unknown, The Strokes. Even my hostel roommate sang “Tamna Tamna” on a daily basis for one complete month (I’m not exaggerating). Since then, whenever he holds the guitar by the fretboard, his default finger shape is an E major chord, the key in which the song is built upon. Where there are no music charts or billboards to refer, if my reserved and silent roommate sings it everyday, I call the song famous. Anyway, even though my personal favorite from Edwin’s filmography is Singju Joint’s “Lit up the sky”, let us analyse the video of “Tamna Tamna” here.
The mise en scène: Set in the 90’s, the color palette is maintained to give out an exuberant vintage tone. Each scene, however possesses a strong hue outside a common palette, despite sharing an overall oneness in tonality. The non-linear storytelling begins with a news headline presenting the viewer with the resolution of the plot, and this scene is succeeded by the aftermath, that is, the suicide of the male protagonist. The actual story is narrated in flashbacks in the mind of the dying man as if the scenes are his entire life flashing before his eyes prior to death, at least this is what “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” tells us will happen. Gaspar Noé also made something based on this. Remember? The primary setting of the video carries a suburban vibe in order to heighten the perceived simplicity of the female character. Regarding the acting, there’s not much to say, for the true acting abilities of the actors are not put to test by the scene requirements. Still, the leads did a great job in pulling off the emotions of the characters in their photogenic countenances. Also, the abstract cutaways in between the necessary storyboards remind us to enjoy the music.
Digesting the details: Anachronism is avoided by the inclusion of 90’s styled props with attention to details. The TV video game console, landline telephones, and a candle stand are used as the mannequins for nostalgia. The video works hard to build up its aesthetics for the characters who are supposedly self-aware aesthetes with bandanas, knackered jeans and converse, band T-shirts, and old reel cameras. These props share the screentime as an ensemble cast in order to hold good to the calendar shown in the opening scene. If we have to dive into further details, there is one major concern that calls for a shout out: a friend of mine imparted his criticism about an aspect in the video regarding the OWL, the secret organization mentioned in the video. From the “news”, we learnt that this organization is ambiguous but clearly deals with terror. It is undoubtedly a terrorist organization. His argument is that the video, as a visual media trying to resurrect a certain time in recorded history, has its storyline built upon a society truly or remotely similar to the time i.e. Manipur’s social condition during the mid 90’s. In retrospect, the Manipuri society was marked by the abundance in cases of armed insurgency and the resultant public unrests. My friend argues that, if the insurgency of that time is the inspiration behind the depiction of OWL in the video, then it is completely misleading, for insurgency and terrorism rarely intersect. He further supported his statement by maintaining that, the plot to bomb the Kangla Fort is a clear act of a terrorist, but very unlikely for the insurgents to venture. Well, I’m not sure of
what the true intention behind is, but the fact that the newsreader mentioned that OWL was from “outside of the state” neutralizes this a bit (I guess).
Symbolism and character study: There are cuts of abstract sequences between the major storyboard scenes in the video and all of them has one of the principal character dwelling in a colored smoke. The definitive color scheme is the use of crimson and green. The green is mutual to both of the characters. Let this represent their bond of true love. The crimson color however, is related to the female, who has a violent/turbulent bend in her motivations. This mix of crimson and green balances her character arc. Throughout these sequences the man remains with a muffled mouth and the woman, blindfolded. This visual representation of a communication breakdown reminds us the lack of congruence of the two characters. The character motivation behind the killing of the woman can be explained by two significant scenes: first, the man gazing the violent painting in the gallery with a sorrowful eye; second, the man watching the news report on a terror attack in shock whilst his lover remain unflinching. We can see how much he despises such mass violence. Thus, he is motivated to kill her in order to prevent mass terror.
Despite my micro-details, you can still enjoy the video and its music without any effort. If you haven’t watch it yet, open Youtube and search for it fast. But then again, if you really haven’t watched it yet, why are you even reading this?
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