Mauritius: Has the MBC Censored Local TV Serial?

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The broadcast of the local Hindustani TV serial on MBC TV 2 each Sunday at 8.30 pm was suddenly stopped four weeks ago. No explanation has been given to the production team. Viewers are also wondering about what is going on. Abhimanyu Unnuth is the director of the serial and the author of the book from which it has been adapted.

The TV serial Naya Ayam (New Horizons) is based on the book Mourya Pahar Bhol Outa (Spoke the Pieter Both), written by Abhimanyu Anuth in 1957. He is also the director of this TV serial. The book was written before independence itself but it was a forecast of how the country will be afterwards. The book deals with the daily life of a Mauritian family. Certain adaptations have been made to match the actual situation in Mauritius and to fit a TV serial.

Among the main themes raised in the serial were: the harmony between different communities, the constraints of Mauritian families, the struggle to earn a living, struggle of a woman, the economy and political issues which pertain to the country.

A month ago, the broadcast of the serial stopped on the MBC. The activities of the production team have also been frozen as they are waiting both for a valid explanation about the suspension of their serial and looking for the green light to start their shootings again. The serial has 52 episodes but, after each 13 episodes, the contract has to be renewed in order to continue the shooting and the broadcasting. This has indeed been the case for Naya Ayam. Thirteen episodes have already been broadcast and they need the green signal to go forward with the remainder of the episodes.

But, according to Abhimanyu Anuth, the director of Naya Ayam, the contract has never been a great issue. They have been shooting before, for their short story, which was under the same banner - Naya Ayam and had 26 episodes. They did the shooting without any contract and the contract was signed much later.

According to Vijay Dhunnpat, coordinator of Naya Ayam, there are about 500,000 viewers of the serial. The sudden stop of the serial is raising lots of questions, both in the mind of the production team and in that of the viewers also. "Our viewers are asking several questions concerning why the serial has stopped being broadcast and we don't have any valid reason to give them. We want the MBC to hear our voice and to take it into consideration", declares Vijay Dhunnpat.

When we contacted Bijaye Madhou, the director of the MBC, for his version of the story, he made the following statement. "The MBC is not broadcasting the serial anymore because we have to renew their contact, which comes to an end after the broadcast of each 13 episodes of the TV serial. We have had some constraints recently due to Maha Shivratree and the independence events. Once their contract is renewed, the serial will be broadcast normally."

Questions are rising in the mind of many people. News is circulating that the fact that the serial has stopped means that there may be some personal interest of certain people behind it.

"We are only reflecting on today's society and how politics are in Mauritius. We can't criticize the Government but we can certainly criticize indivi-duals and show their flaws. We are not harming anyone. Maybe certain politicians may have felt targeted but we are not harming anyone. When the writer wrote the book before independence, he already made a forecast of how things would be after independence. We are only applying and adapting things, which are in the book. There have been certain people who, with some backing, have eventually tried to stop the serial from being broadcast. It was for their own interests," declares Vijay Dhunnpat when asked about the issue.

For his part, Abhimanyu Anuth is also expressing his annoyance while keeping a positive thinking. "I am a fictionist and I'm free to express my views. Maybe there have been certain things, which were a bit too strong and which certain people have not liked. My artists are waiting for the green signal to start the shooting again and they are frustrated. The contract issue is not a valid reason as we have already shot without contract. I have shown all aspects of society in this novel. Then why not showing the political reality? My artists eventually doubt of political pressure behind it. We are showing Mauritian reality and if some politicians do feel that they are being targeted and that they have tried to boycott the serial, then they are really showing that this is indeed true! And if this is the case, there is certainly no freedom of expression in this country!" says Abhimanyu Anuth.

Although frustrated, the director of Naya Ayam still trusts the MBC and hope that things will be sorted out in a positive way. "I personally still have trust in the director of the MBC. I don't think they have done it deliberately but there must certainly be a more 'gentleman' way of negotiating things", says Abhimanyu Anuth.

(L'Express (Port Louis), 7 March 2008)