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E-Pao! Features - Manipuri cinema in the last three decades

Manipuri Cinema In The Last Three Decades
By Bit Irom

Manipuri films have started gaining its momentum with a force since imposition of blanket ban on the screening of Hindi films in entertainment houses in the state. Screening of the Hindi movies have come to a grinding halt in this volatile border state despite reiterated appeals made by the successive Chief Ministers. This move has given fresh impetus to the film producers, artists and film lovers in the state. Proscribed Revolutionary People's Front, (RPF) the political wing of the banned People's Liberation Army (PLA) imposed the blanket ban on screening of the Hindi movies and other form of Hindi related entertainment programmes since November last year.

In the annals of the Manipuri film industries, 2001 will be yet another glittering chapter. Makhonmani Mongsaba's Manipuri feature film "Chatledo Eidi" has bagged the 48th national film award (regional language) for best feature film. This film retells a complex love story in a simple manner depicting of the natural beauty of the state. "Chatledo Eidi" is the first Manipuri feature film to win a national award in five years, the last such film being internationally reputed Aribam Shyam Sharma's Sanabi in 1996.

Manipur has completed three decades of its film annals with 54 feature films and 35 documentary/non feature films. "Matamgi Manipur" is the first Manipuri feature film. During this period of thirty years film industries in Manipur bring 9 international awards and 10 national awards.

Compared with the multi crore films in Mumbai and elsewhere in the country, the average investment for a film in Manipuri would be around Rs 15 lac. However, the people of the region should feel proud of the quality of Manipuri films of low budget evident from bagging several international and national awards.

In 1982 Imagi Ningthem (My precious son) bagged the Grand prix awards for best feature film in the festival Des Three Continents at Nanes in France and Best Child Actor award of National film festival - 1982. Another Manipuri Feature film - Ishanou won a special mention award for the Main actress - Selection officially in the Cannes international film festival, France, in the section Uncertain Reard 1991. This film also won the National award in 1991. Manipuri short film Pebet begged the Best Short Film (Non Fiction) in the international short film festival held in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1985.

The non feature film Sangai, the dancing deer of Manipur, bagged 5 awards for (1) Artistic Excellence in choreograph (2) Interpretation of an Animal's Spirit (3) delicate depiction of wildlife (4) Fostering cultural perspective of conservation (5) Inter relationship between animals and human being in the 12th International wildlife film festival of 1989 held at Montana. In the same festival, the Deer on the Lake, 16 mm documentary film won another merit award.

The need of film production, acute shortage of equipment and trained hands have been obstacles in the way of production of quality films in Manipur though several feature films were selected in the Indian Panorama (non feature film category). Manipuris give more stress on production of good films thematically and aesthetically.

The state Government has a film policy for giving financial assistance to film producers on the recommendation of Manipur Film Development Corporation Ltd. The quantum of assistance limited ranging from Rs 1,00,000/- to Rs 15,000/-. MFDC Ltd. came into existence on May one 1987 with objective of developing film industry in the state. It is engaged in setting up film laboratory, studio, production of Manipuri films, instituting awards and festivals for establishing institutes in film technology for helping film societies etc.

There is no state Government's plan/policy for giving financial assistance/loan for construction of cinema theatre, so far. There is no enough infrastructure of film production in terms of equipment, money (directly or indirectly given by the state Government) Studio, laboratory etc. Most of the Manipuri films are exposed, printed, processed and re- recorded at Kolkata or Chenai or Mumbai. These make more expenditure in transportation and communication. The overhead expenditure and capital invested become bigger.

The box office return of Manipuri films cannot make good the investment by producers. There is pathetic audience response to Manipuri films and the market inside and outside the state is so limited. Income derived from the exhibition of the films is generally not upto the mark. The producers cannot exhibit their films for a reasonable long period of time. Modern young cinegoers are pulled by commercial films. The largest cinegoers are the young peoples who are more interested in Hindi and English films.

More over, there is no concession in hiring cinema theatres for screening Manipuri films. When there is no profit in the box office, the exhibitors reject the screening of local/Manipur films putting the producer always at a disadvantage. There is no system of refund of entertainment tax to the producers in Manipur and the few benefit they would have got has been denied to them.

Manipur also needs trained and professional cine artists. Most of the cine artists are trained by the producers themselves. In case of women artists, sometimes, they entered into family life even before the completion of the film or they enter the same after acting one or two film(s). Hence every producer has to train artists at the time of production of new film de nuvo.

Manipuri film producers are facing the following main problems - (1) Financial problems (2) social problems (3) technical problems (4) lack of screening hall. Manipur needs to have a separate film financing agency which can give loan to film makers, film exhibitors, film distributors and any other concerns/films. There is as yet no scheme of film financing under MFDC Ltd. or the state Government. However, the central government entrusts such activities to the NFDC, Films Division, DD and some other banks. The important thing is lack of film screening hall. Manipuri producers have to approach the film exhibitions earnestly to get the timing/programmes of exhibition of their film. In Manipur most of the theatres are booked in series with English films. They can hardly get chunks in theatres only when the film distributors do agree to spare the time, they get hall.

Needless to say, the Manipuri film producers are inspired by the love of the medium and the art rather than for commercial consideration. The talent, the enthusiasm and the rich artistic resources found in Manipur can be well exploited to produce excellent films by augmenting the technical requirements and financial resources.


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