SN Chand : The father of Manipuri cinema
- Part 3 -

Meghachandra Kongbam *

 S N Chand - Film Personalities of Manipur (2017)
S N Chand - Film Personalities of Manipur (2017) :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam

Funded by the Film Finance Corporation of the Government of India, films like Bhuvan Some of Mrinal Sen (1969), etc were considered as the birth of the movement of the New Indian Cinema.

It was preceded by films considered as Parallel Cinema like Pather Panchali of Satyajit Ray (1955), Ajantrik of Ritwik Ghatak (1958).

The films were based on realistic humanism. The New Indian Cinema also focused on socio-political consciousness. The establishment of the Film Institute of India at Pune in 1960, the National Film Archives of India in 1964, and the Film Finance Corporation in 1960 helped financially and logistically in the production of a new genre of films.

John Abraham's Vidyarthikale Ithile Ithile (1972), Adoor Gopalkrishnan's Swayambaram (1972) and G Arabidan's Uttarayanam (1974) were the Malayalam films emerging out of the New Indian Cinema wave.

Pattabhi Rama Reddy's Samskara (1970), BV Karanth and Girish Karnad's Vamsha Vriksha (1971) and Girish Kasaravalli's Ghatashradha (1977) were Kannada new wave films. Gautam Ghosh, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Aparna Sen spearheaded the movement in Bengal. Bhabendra Nath Saikia, Jahnu Barua also emerged in Assam.

After SN Chand, Aribam Syam Sharma, MA Singh and K Ibohal Sharma came forth to make new wave films in Manipur.

SN Chand wrote the script and directed yet another Manipuri film- Ngak-E-Ko Nangse (What a wonder you are) produced by Wangkhem Basantakumar under the banner of Poonam Pictures. It was the fourth Manipuri film made in 1974. The film depicts the impact of a growing alien culture in the Manipuri society, its crisis and the realization of one's identity after getting into trouble.

The film opens and ends with a traveller (Irom Nabakanta) driving a jeep on the serpentine road in the hills of Manipur.

He describes the uncertainty of life through a song-
"Punsi! Ngak-e-ko Nangse
Khangdeko Nangse
Karamba Nangi Lipunna Chetna
Pullibano Taibang Meeoiba
Haiyu, Eikhoise Nangi Sannapotla;

(Oh life! You are amazing
Don't understand you
Which thread of yours binds us?
We human beings, so tight.
Tell us, are we your toys ...

The film has seven songs- two romantic songs, a ballroom song, a sad song, a traveller's song, a lullaby and a devotional song. All songs are penned by noted writer and lyricist B Jayantakumar Sharma and composed by legendary singer Nongmaithem Pahari who himself sang four songs. The film is a trendsetter, which depicts the social turmoil in an elite Manipuri family.

In a story of joy and tears, the eldest son Binoy (Manish Ningthouja) who is a Forest Officer of a rich family meets a vulnerable girl Shanti (Rajani Yumnam) accidentally and saves her. A traveller (Irom Nabakanta) picks them up and provides shelter at his place. They fall in love and get married in a temple.

The social fallout of the relationship between the two is intense as she is not accepted by her mother-in-law (Binokumari). But her father-in-law (Laishram Netrajit) who is dominated by his wife accepts the simplicity and devotion of Shanti.

The film is "A fresh and stimulating family drama of modern family" depicting the story of two girls who dream of a "happy life and romance". The mother-in-law however encourages her daughter Anita (Bobby Bhattacharjee) to be involved with a rich Casanova Ravi (Basantakumar) who later exploits both of them.

A man breaks in and attempts to molest Shanti and taking it as an opportunity, the mother-in-law sends her off. Her husband is shocked when his mother tells him that his wife has gone on her own after her illicit relationship has been discovered. The husband and wife search for each other and Shanti finds solace in the hills and gives birth to a child.

Meanwhile, Anita who gets pregnant fails to convince her boyfriend to marry him and rather than accepting her, he turns her away. The traveller an old gentleman unexpectedly finds Shanti who disguises as a tribal woman in a hill village and helps Shanti and her husband Binoy in reuniting.

Binoy searches for Ravi and brings him to unite with his sister. His mother also realizes her past misdeeds and arrogant nature. The traveller hands over Shanti, her husband and their little child to their family. And he moves away singing the traveller's song. The film closes with a positive note. The film was made with SN Chand's previous team- Anil Gupta as Cinematographer and Rasbehari Sinha as Editor.

The film was released on 20th September 1974 at Usha Cinema, Imphal. Without any credit, SN Chand extensively helped GC Tongbra, a distinguished dramatist, in making his directorial debut film- Khutthang Lamjel (1979). He also acted in RK Kripa's Ingallei (1990). He expired on December 12, 1989.

On Film Promotion

SN Chand was actively associated with the Film Society of Manipur established in 1966 for the promotion of a good film movement in Manipur. As a resource person, he presented research papers on 'Recent Trends in Contemporary Cinema' in the Seminar on Trends in Contemporary Cinema jointly organized by the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, the Film Society of Manipur and the Manipur Film Development Council at JN Manipur Dance Academy in Imphal on April 24, 1982.

In his paper, he elaborated the trends of silent and talkie films and the emergence of the Italian neo-realism wave which had influenced Indian filmmakers like Satyajit Ray. He indicated that the regional filmmakers should have adequate knowledge of the film medium and the social significance while making films.

In another seminar held on August 23, 1983 at JN Manipur Dance Academy, Imphal organized by the Manipur Film Development Council in connection with the Eastern Indian Film Festival, SN Chand presented a paper on 'Problems in Making Manipuri films' which highlighted the revolution of regional cinema in 1955-65 in India, the importance of Manipuri cinema in the small State of Manipur, lack of facilities in the production, distribution and exhibition sectors of Manipuri cinema, film policies of Assam, Bengal, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab and its positive impacts in the promotion of regional film industry, and the need of a Film Policy in Manipur.

SN Chand was a member of the Governing Council of the Manipur Film Development Council from September 1981 to April 1987 and one of the Directors of the Board of the newly converted Manipuri Film Development Corporation Ltd. from May 1987 to 1988-89.

The Manipur Film Development Corporation Ltd. and the Cine Artistes and Technicians Association, Manipur paid rich tributes to SN Chand, the true patriot of Manipuri Cinema by organizing functions every year.

Concluded ...

* Meghachandra Kongbam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on June 10 2022 .

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