snippet from the Lem Chan play - The sum of Money by Zephyr Drama club 

Lem Chan is a traditional form of Mizo popular drama. It is known for its simplicity and dialogue-heavy aspect. 

Lem chan is a relatively young theatre and has roots in the colonial period. It was introduced by the British during the early 20th century. 

The art form however is quite distinct from British contemporary theatre and have evolved in a very localised Mizo art form with distinct technique. 

The name 'Lem chan' is derived from two Mizo words. Lem and Chan. Lem literally means an image while chan means to play or to be in a situation. 

Here is an example of Lem Chan play

Borsap lem, leh thu chhia nei tu tu leh Rasi lem chan ('Superintendent's Court Scene between Magistrate and Interpreter'), was allegedly the first proper play of the Mizo Lem chan theatre. 

It was first performed in a Christmas gathering in 1912. Lemchan was often commissioned by the British government and the early church in the then Lushai hills. It was in a way a propaganda material to propagate British authority and religious beliefs. 

However, as time passes secular play became part of Lem chan theatre with the drama titled "Hamlet" gaining momentum of popularity in early 20th century Mizoram. 

The Mizo Drama 'Hamlet' was one of the first Shakespearean dramas that was localised into Mizo Lem chan. The story was heavily localised and the play although done in European custom was neither British nor Indian, it was very Mizo in dialogue and play style. 

Since the popularity of Hamlet, many amateur Lemchan clubs started popping up around Mizoram and Lem chan become an important part of Mizo festive tradition. 

Turapuii and Suntea are two of the most iconic characters in Mizo Lem chan 

Lem chan can be considered as a touring theatre genre performed by a group of around 7 to 10 artists who are invited by a person or an institution who pays them 'lawman' which literally mean rewards. It is performed mostly at religious meetings and on festive occasions. 

One of the most renowned figures in Mizo Lemchan is an Educational professional, Ch. Pasena (1893-1961) who wrote and directed multiple Mizo Lem chan plays derived from the Bible such as Heroda chawimawina ("King Herod's Glory", 1925), which was a biblical tragedy. 

He also dramatized two other short stories from the Holy Bible, Fapa tlanbo ("The Prodigal Son", 1927) and Khualbuka mi a ("Fool at the Inn", 1933). 

His original plays include Tinreng daih khawl ("Machine with a Brain", 1928) about a robot, Ramsa khawmpui ("Animals Conference", 1929) and Rorelna ("Court", 1933) on the wages of sin for a horrific boy.

He also assisted to produce The Merchant of Venice as Sailova (1929),  which was a grand success as the first Mizo Shakespearean Lem chan drama.

One of the most striking aspects of Mizo Lem Chan is its setting. Unlike other contemporary theatres, no elaborate costume or props are used for Lem chan and there is no fixed set or platform for it. 
Lem chan can be performed anywhere given enough space.

The setting of a Lem chan is almost always indoor, even if some part of a play is occasionally set outdoor, most part of it is set in an indoor setting. 

One of the main components of a Lemchan play props includes a long wooden stool known locally as 'YMA thuthleng'  and a table in front of it. 

Lem Chan often involves people sitting in these props and conversing about various topics. There is little movement in a typical Lem Chan, the entertainment is delivered through words by the actors. 

These wooden stools called 'YMA Thuthleng" are one of the most heavily used props in a typical Lem Chan 

Hence, throughout the age Lem chan has evolved to become either a religious or comedic play. Tragedy plays are rare. 

Some of the most well known modern Lem chan personalities includes B.Lalthlengliana from the Thangkura drama franchise, F.Zonunsanga who plays the role of  Tuarpuii in a long-running Lem chan series and H.Rotluanga ( Mapuia) from the Zephyr Drama club. 

Lem chan artists in Mizoram enjoy celebrations and admirations. Though the popularity of Lem chan has suffered a bit with the advent of modern film making and visual effects, Lem chan is still a very popular form of entertainment in Mizoram and to this day no Mizo event is complete without a Lem chan play. 

If you think this article was interesting, check out our other writings about Mizoram by clicking here

The Mizos

The Mizos is a one-man team news blog, that brings you news and stories from Mizoram, Northeast India and the rest of the World.

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