A studio that's seriously entertaining

Updated: Jul 31, 2018, 14:07 IST | Kusumita Das | Mumbai

A new production studio seeks to address burning civic issues in a fun manner, through a genre they call 'civic entertainment'

While a lot of entertainment content these days are taking up civic issues and addressing problems in a light vein to drive the message harder, a new initiative seeks to fashion out a defined genre for the same. Civic Studios Mumbai is a new production firm that will give voice to stories across the board — in films, theatre, comedy, literature, memes etc — that inspires civic engagement. It's the brain child of Anushka Shah, a researcher at the MIT Media Lab and Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center of Civic Media, MIT Media Lab. While Zuckerman is the research advisor of the project, it's Shah who is helming it here in Mumbai.


"For a democracy to survive, there is need for civic engagement and that's the reason why we are trying to develop content around it. The idea is to impart civic education through entertainment. The concept was developed at MIT Media Labs where the research is done, but the production studio here is still a new entity. We are in the process of selecting projects that we want to showcase," says 26-year-old Shah. Civic Studios will kick start into action next year, but to set the ball rolling they have organised an event called The Past, Present, and Future of Civic Entertainment in India. It will bring together media makers, civic activists and edutainment theorists to explore different modes of civic engagement in India, the best techniques to use to drive behaviour change through entertainment and the past and current trends of civic and political representation in Indian entertainment.

Among the panelists featured will be Neelesh Mishra of Gaon Connection, a popular radio show that focuses on narratives from the margins, Sona Sharma of Population Foundation of India that is associated with Doordarshan's path-breaking edutainment show Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon, Rohan Joshi of AIB, Khushboo Ranka, director of An Insignifant Man, the documentary on Arvind Kejriwal, besides Shah and Zuckerman. Shah continues, "We are looking for stories about successful activism, protests, stories focused on public institutions like the parliament, judiciary — we want to present both sides of the story when it comes to civic and political change. We are format agnostic, the medium can be anything as long as it carries a message. We are also open to works of fiction, short films and feature films." How much will politics play a part in the content that goes up, we ask. "Politics and civic issues are hard to separate but not all content should necessarily spur controversy," Shah adds.

A still from Kaala, which is centred around a Dalit protagonist. It's the opening film at the event

The event will open with the screening of the Rajinikanth-starrer Kaala. "It's a great film that focuses on a Dalit character and the sheer power he holds. We want Civic Studios to provide a platform to those not heard, and we also want to keep the content vernacular, and not restrict it to only English," Shah says.

When: 10 am to 7 pm, August 11
Where: Auditorium, first floor Godrej ONE, Vikhroli East
RSVP: indiaculturelab@godrejinds.com

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