E-pao! Movie Review

Between conscious and sub-consciousness: A film by G. Narayan Sharma
By: Ranabir Mangang/TSE

Films have always been a very powerful medium to highlight the social problems and ills afflicting a society. It is also one of the most important and powerful social institutions of modern time and occupies a unique place in our contemporary society. In this regard NS Films plays a pivotal role in terms of providing entertainment, enhancing information and knowledge, preserving tradition, sensitising people about urgent issues of Manipuri society since the last two decades.

One cannot ignore the Company's box office hits like Lamja Parshuram, Saphabee (1997), Olangthagee Wangma-dasu (1980) etc. and its valuable contributions to Manipuri cinema. All these films are, we should say, commercial or mainstream films which appeal to the masses. But, Helloy, the latest presentation from this company now running at Friends Talkies, Imphal is somewhat a deviation from their earlier films. The film tries to relay the present state of unrest in society depicted through the legends of Helloy, the seven supernatural sisters. As tradition goes, Helloys are enchantresses who always try to woo mentally weak bachelors and keep them under their spell. Under the spell of the Helloys the possessed individual is made to eat cowdung, earth worms etc as if these are delicacies. In short the possessed individual act like maniacs in their sub-conscious level. This kind of spell can be defeated and cured by Maibas.

The film clearly shows all these with exaggerated scenes. The point where the film scores is with even such a difficult subject as divine possession the director of the film manages to handle it with extra-ordinary sensibility, like Syam Sharma had done in his film Ishanou in 1990.

Ishanou deals with the Maibi phenomenon which disturbs the peace of a happy family but Narayan Sharma's Helloy depicts the mysterious phenomenon of Helloy who possesses a desperate romantic youth.

It is to the credit of the director and perhaps the actress Chandan (Chandan in the film also) who in the role of Helloy manage to bring scale new hieghts with their creativity and sensitive portrayal of the theme.

The plot can be divided into two parts. The romantic affairs of Birbhadra and Chandan and the possession of Birbhadra by Helloy for her romantic satisfaction. Both the parts have similar endings. Birbhadra who has an affair with Chandan becomes desperate when he learns that Chandan is going to be married to a doctor. Finally, he takes his Guruji's place and takes the oath of celibacy. Chandan who tried to make up with Birbhadra after realising the situation had to go back empty handed. On the other hand, the Helloy who possessed Birbhadra in order to fulfill her romantic urge also had to undergo the same of pangs of separation as a Maiba cures Birbhadra. The director skillfully handles the conscious and sub-consciousness plot and tries to compare the present state of the society as being possessed by a Helloy. Uncertainty of life, frequent bandhs, blockades, gun culture, suffering of innocents, irresponsibility towards the environment etc. make the people restless and society is enveloped by a bad dream. The film itself poses relevant questions to our contemporary society.

Despite the brilliance of the director the film suffers from poor technical control.

However Narayan's film has proved that it is possible to make a good movie despite many handicaps faced by the industry in the State. Helloy is ultimately original and makes one think.

Director's note:

Manipur, an erstwhile princely state, now a state of Indian Union, once described as "Paradise on earth," has now turned into a place of utter chaos. There exist many different ethnic groups in Manipur - Meiteis (the largest group residing in the plains), Pangals (Muslims, also residing in the plains), Nagas (mainly residing in the hills; amongst the Nagas, there are many sub-tribes), Kukis (also mainly residing in the hills; amongst the Kukis also, there are many sub-tribes) and many other smaller ethnic groups. All the ethnic groups with distinct cultural heritage and beliefs are blood relations. This picture is aimed at bringing the blood brothers closer.

There is a strong belief that seven supernatural sisters called Helloys do exists. Helloys are enchantress who always tries to woo mentally weak bachelors and keep then under their spell. They make the unfortunate individual do whatever they wish. Those under their spell fed all sorts of disgusting things like cow dung, earthworms etc. All those under their spell lose their sensibilities and start acting like maniacs. The story draws a parallel from this belief of existence of Helloys. The present State of unrest in Manipur is projected as if the people are under the spell of Helloys.

Another belief of the Manipur is that Keithel Lairembi, a deity assigned as the warden of the marketplace, makes her appearance before any calamity or misfortune that is bound to happen in the near future.

The story starts with the appearance of Keithel Lairembi.She wails in the marketplace at dawn. She prophesized that blood brothers would fight one another. This signifies the unfortunate turns of events that would lead to the present state of unrest in Manipur.

The story weaves around a girl, Chandan, who wishes to investigate the existence of the Helloys and her long forgotten childhood friend, Birabhadra, who has become a painter and a social worker at the same time. In the course of their meeting as grown-ups and falling for each other again, many problems that are being faced by the people of Manipur are shown. The Law of the jungle, "Might is right," prevails in Manipur. There is no place for the weak and poor.

A farm, with an ashram where Birabhadra and many others belonging to different ethnic groups reside and work together hand in hand, undisturbed by the happenings around them shows that inspite of the false propaganda blood brothers still can coexist peacefully.

Guruji, a celibate, the founder of the ashram, who works tirelessly for the upliftment of the poor and downtrodden represents the very few people left in Manipur, who still have not lost hope and sacrifice their lives for the betterment of the society. In the end, Guruji succumbs to a stray bullet like many innocents in Manipur, who laid down their lives in the last few years. Birabhadra takes the place of Guruji. Chandan ultimately realizes that choosing Birabhadra as a partner of life would be in vain as he has taken Guruji's place and has take the oath of celibacy. She makes a silent exit and keeps everyone guessing.

*A change in the eternal walk of life *


Diya, Chandan, Keshoram, Dhaneshwar Sharma, Guna Sharma, Dhanamanjuri, Romi, Gyatri
Baby Praneshwari, Baby Rameshwari.
Dr. N Sarat, Rupachandra, Rameshchandra, Bimola, Roma, Baby Praneshwari, Bedapati.
(Late) Aheibam Shyam
Dr. N Sarat Singh
Tom Sharma/Chandan
G Narayan Sharma

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