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New book describes the journey of Manipuri cinema

by Stewart Cole

One would not have imagined that Manipur, whose territory is much smaller than any district of Assam or UP and with a population of only 20 lakh at that time, brought laurels for the country in many national and international film events.

The first feature film Manipuri Matamgi Manipur directed by Debkumar Bose was released on April 9, 1972 and won the national award. This film won the President’s Silver Medal at the 20th National Film Awards.

In 1982, Imagi Ningthem directed by A. Shyam Sharma won the Grand Prix at the Three Continents Film Festival in Nantes, France, to become the first Indian film to win the prestigious award. It was the only Indian film invited to the festival. Isanou (The Chosen One) produced in 1990 and directed by Shyam Sharma was the only official selection for the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.

So far, 39 Manipuri feature films have won national awards, of which 18 are in the feature film category and 15 in the Best Regional Film category. In the international awards category, Shyam Sharma became the first Indian director to win the Grand Prix Imagine Ninthem in 1982. Haobam Paban Kumar, a young director, won the Golden Alley in 2016 for his film Phumsang. There has been good participation of Manipuri films in other film festivals.

This and all other aspects of Manipuri films are presented graphically by Meghachandra Kongbam in his recently published book Manipur Cinema during the Manipuri Golden Jubilee Film Festival. Mr. Kongbam is the retired Director of Information and Public Relations of the Manipur Government.

During his tenure, Mr. Kongbam used to contribute thought-provoking articles to the generally uneven path of the 50-year-old Manipuri Cinema. It was the national award for best film critic in 2015. Ratan Thiyam, an internationally renowned playwright, released the book on April 3, which is a valid reference to Manipuri cinema. The 600-page book has five chapters focusing on various aspects of Manipuri cinema.

Mr Kongbam says, ” Manipur Cinema The main chapter is about the Tibetan-Burmese language spoken by the Mongol people. Chapters 2 and 3 deal with the cinema environment before the actual birth of Manipuri cinema. The following chapters focus on the works of the pioneers of Manipuri cinema and their lives. Next is the advent of the digital age and its impact on Manipuri cinema. The last chapter discusses various topics of Manipuri cinemas.

Mr. Kongbam notes, “Moviegoers have started from scratch and even depend on others for technicians, equipment and other accessories. The director of the first Manipuri film was Debkumar Bose from Calcutta. “Later, Manipur produced an average of seven films in one year.”

In 2000, an illegal organization banned the screening of Hindi films and the reproduction of Hindi songs in Manipur. Cinematographers believe the ban has had a devastating effect on Manipuri cinema.

The book says so The Loktak Lairembi directed by Haobam Paban Kumar was the first digital film to be certified by the CBFC. He won the national award and the Golden Gateway. It has been screened at film festivals around the world. Shyam Sharma alone won six awards in feature films and nine in the non-feature category.

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