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Embracing Shadows: The Enigmatic Journey of ‘Laikhutshangbi’ and the Triumph of Classical Meitei Folklore in Maniwood’s Animation Film Industry

Oinam Ponting *



In a delightful blend of horror and comedy, the animation Meitei language film “Laikhutshangbi (Long Handed Demoness)” has captivated global audiences, amassing an impressive viewership of 8.9 million for its initial release on December 17, 2017, and 5.3 million for the concluding part released on January 26, 2018.

Crafted by the imaginative minds at Pupu Folk TV, also known as PUPU FOLK TALES, this cinematic piece artfully intertwines the traditional with the modern, bringing to life a tale steeped in the rich Meitei culture.

Set against the backdrop of a quaint village nestled beside an enigmatic forest, the plot unfurls around a menacing demoness whose presence casts a shadow over the idyllic landscape. Known for her malevolent acts of abducting and devouring innocent children, and occasionally preying on livestock, the demoness becomes the source of a palpable dread that permeates the village.

The narrative reaches a critical juncture when a domestic animal falls victim to the demoness’ wrath, right within the confines of a family’s home, leaving the parents fraught with concern for their young child’s safety.

As the father embarks on a journey to distant lands in pursuit of sustenance for his family, the mother’s fears are amplified by the looming threat of the demoness, whose cunning is matched only by her ferocity. The tension escalates when the demoness, having observed the father’s departure, approaches the family’s abode under the cloak of night, seeking to ensnare the child.

Yet, the mother, heeding her husband’s counsel, musters the courage to deceive the demoness, claiming the father’s presence, thus warding off the impending danger.

The demoness harbored a lingering trepidation towards the child’s father, a consequence of a previous encounter that left her with minor injuries. This vestige of vulnerability impelled her to err on the side of caution, prompting her to retreat into the shadows of the forest, thereby evading any perilous confrontation.

This nightly charade continues until the father’s return, at which point a daring plan is set into motion. In a climactic confrontation, the father’s valorous act of severing the demoness’ hand with a swift stroke of his sword sends shockwaves through the village,

marking the beginning of the end for the demoness’ reign of terror. Her anguished cries not only signal her defeat but also serve as a testament to the indomitable spirit of the villagers. The demoness’ retreat, marred by pain and humiliation, ensures a newfound peace for the human realm, as she fades into the annals of folklore, never to cross paths with humanity again.

The film's animation, rendered in a charming 2D style, belies the fluidity and expressiveness of the characters, particularly the demoness, whose vocal prowess is a highlight of the production. The voice actors imbue their roles with a depth of emotion that resonates with viewers, while the demoness’ traditional Meitei phanek attire, in hues of reddish-brown, enhances her character’s bloodthirsty nature and her affinity with the woods. Her disheveled hair and piercing gaze add a layer of intimidation that is both fearsome and mesmerizing.

Furthermore, the stark contrast of the demoness’s blackened palms and fingers against her lighter body hue serves as a visual metaphor for her untamed nature. The darkened extremities suggest a life untouched by the purity of water, hinting at her relentless grip on the forbidden and the untouchable, which leaves an indelible mark, manifesting as the perpetual darkness staining her hands.

The Introduction of a male demon in the film’s denouement lends an intriguing twist to the narrative, stirring a sense of intrigue and speculation among viewers about the possibility of a sequel. This enigmatic figure’s sudden appearance weaves an additional layer of complexity into the story’s tapestry.

The narrative is further enriched by the presence of a narrator, whose storytelling prowess elevates the film, making it accessible and engaging for audiences of all ages.

In a minor oversight that slightly detracts from the film’s continuity, the demoness proclaims her intent to breach the wall to reach the child within. Yet, the ensuing visuals depict not the anticipated act of piercing but rather the insertion of her hand through a pre-existing aperture. This discrepancy between her declared intentions and her actual actions introduces a subtle incongruity in the narrative.

Despite minor discrepancies between the demoness’ intentions and actions, the film triumphs in its portrayal of the classical Meitei mythological & folkloric figure of Lai Khutshangbi (alias Lai Khutsangbi), offering valuable moral lessons and serving as a cultural treasure for the people of Kangleipak (Manipur).

In conclusion, the movie “Laikhutshangbi (Long Handed Demoness)” stands as a testament to the enduring allure of ancient Meitei civilization and its folklore. It is a cinematic gem that not only entertains but also educates, leaving viewers with a sense of wonder and anticipation for potential sequels. Without a doubt, this film is a resounding ‘yes’ for those seeking an enriching cinematic experience.


* Oinam Ponting wrote this article for e-pao.net
This article was webcasted on June 09 2024.



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