The subject of film : Is it a medium or an art form ?
- Part 2 -

Meghachandra Kongbam *

 A poster  from  'Olangthagee Wangmadasu'
A poster from 'Olangthagee Wangmadasu'

Meeting of Manipur Film Development Council held on 13-11-1980

The meeting of the Manipur Film Development Council held on 13-11-1980 at 3 pm at the Chief Minister's bungalow office was an important meeting in the history of Manipur film industry which took a crucial decision on the transfer the subject of FILM from the Department of Information and Public Relations to the Department of Art and Culture in Manipur.

The then Chief Minister RK Dorendra Singh was in the chair and the members in the meeting were C Doungel, Finance Commissioner; K Kamini Singh, Additional Director of Publicity; Filmmakers - A Syam Sharma, GC Tongbra, MA Singh, SN Chand, K Ibohal Sharma and L Banka Sharma; Film producers - G Narayan Sharma, L Shyamsundar Sharma and H Gehendra Singh; Film artistes - K Tomba Singh and Y Roma Devi; Screenwriter- MK Binodini; Exhibitor - Th Haridas Singh; Film society activists-RK Bidur Singh, Secy of Imphal Cine Club and KB Singh, Secy of Film Society of Manipur.

The proceedings of the meeting says, "The meeting recommended that as the State Directorate of Culture has come into existence, the Directorate should be the appropriate Department to deal with the subject and the subject should be transferred to the Directorate of Culture from the Publicity Department". Perhaps, the then Chief Minister of Manipur was intellectually misguided by some members in the meeting to gain their personal benefits.

The functioning of Manipur Film Development Council under any Department does not violate any Rules under the Constitution of India. It can be done. However, the transfer of the subject of FILM from the DIPR to any Department is gross violation of the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 under the Constitution of India.

It is questionable, if some members in the meeting had determined for their personal gain, to spoil the future of film industry in Manipur by disassociating the nodal department in the State from the parent Ministry.

In the article - 'Whose Directorate Is It Anyway' of his book - Array of Colourful Thoughts, Medley of Images; film critic RK Bidur wrote,"Then without so much as considering anything that had been done in the past years, a few powerful persons put to ruin DIPR's effort and severed all meaningful ties with others".

He further wrote, "Two members of the Executive committee- K Ibohal Sharma and RK Bidur argued against the resolution saying that film and its related issues fallen under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and thus Manipur Film Development Council should also be a part of DIPR of the State under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. But they sidestepped the truth, and as a show of clear self-vestedness and politicisation, the Council was absorbed into the Art and Culture Department.

The next meeting of the Executive Committee held on 18 December 1980 saw the removal of the two members who had put up a fight against the wrong decision and they were supplanted with two new members." DIPR property on lease to MFDC .

The plot of land covering an area of 1.517 acres under Dag No. 4423/4436 of Sheet No. 21- Imphal Municipality at Palace Gate, earlier alloted for Open Air Theatre was leased to the Manipur Film Development Council for 50 years for construction of the theatre complex as per decision taken in the meeting held on 31.01.1986 in the office chamber of the Chief Minister, Manipur. The land was leased out vide Secretariat: Revenue Department Order No. 21/59/79-R (Pt.) dated the 27th May 1986.

MFDC cuts off link with DIPR

When the existing Manipur Film Development Council was converted to the Manipur Film Development Corporation Limited vide Secretariat: Social Welfare, Arts and Culture Department Order No. 11/93/03-SE(SW) dated the 7th February 1987 and the Corporation was incorporated under the Companies Act 1956 on May 1, 1987; the State Department of Information and Public Relations which connected with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was not figured in the list of the Board of Directors of the Corporation constituted under Article 92 of the Articles of the Association of the Corporation.

The first Board of Directors were 1) RK Jaichandra Singh, Chief Minister of Manipur as Chairman, 2) Y Erabot, Minister of Art & Culture as Vice-Chairman, 3) BS Lamba, Commissioner (Finance), 4) Naved Masood, Secretary (Art & Culture), 5) DV Singh, Secretary (Industries), 6) C Samarendra Singh, Director (Art & Culture), 7) MK Binodini Devi, Yaiskul, 8) SN Chand, Singjamei, 9) LK Shimray, Paona Bazar, 10) Anil Pandit, Manager (TF) NFDC, Bombay and A Syamkrisna Sharma, Managing Director. It was not fair for the MFDC to intentionally disassociate DIPR as a Board of Director.

Non-implementation of Centre’s policies on film

When the advent of Cable TV and Video led to the closure of cinema halls in India in the latter part of 1980s, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting constituted a High Powered Committee on the Problems of Film Industry on February 14, 1989 and 24 recommendations concerning to the State Governments were sent to every State for implementation. The Indian film industry, being the ninth biggest industry in India, the Government of India announced FILM as industry on the 10th of May 1998.

The then Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting, Sushma Swaraj also wrote to the Chief Minister of Manipur on May 20, 1998 to grant recognition to films as an industry. The Union Minister said, "I am confident that this would add to a very meaningful economic activity at the State level.

While the film making does require investment in infrastructure also, it is not entirely an asset-based activity and has a large component of human talent and creativity. It is also a major provider of employment. In this respect, it is an activity which can be successfully encouraged even in States which, for various reasons, are not able to attract other industries".

Being an irrelevant department, the State Art and Culture Department did not take up the important issue instructed by the Centre for growth of the Film Industry in Manipur.

 A scene  from  'Mayophi Macha'
A scene from 'Mayophi Macha'

Failure on handling the subject of Film

Under the Art & Culture Department, the Manipur State Film Development Council was set up in 1980 and later, the Manipur Film Development Corporation was founded under the Company Act in 1987. Due to mismanagement, the Corporation became defunct and dead. In 2015, the existing Manipur State Film Development Society with a very limited scope was established in namesake for development of Manipuri films. The Society does not carry on any business for the film industry.

The State Cabinet approved for setting up a FILM CITY in the State in the year 2015 but it is not yet realised. MANIPUR STATE FILM & TELEVISION INSTITUTE was inaugurated in August 2016 along with the Manipur University of Culture. It has not started its classes till date, even though a Director was appointed since its inception.

The Art and Culture Department had announced a Manipur State Cine Policy 2020 which is unrealistic and has no any financial provision for revival of existing and defunct cinema halls in Manipur as well as the subsidy or any incentive for production of Manipuri films.

The Cine Policy does not reflect any methods for earning large revenue of the State Government from the FILM sector in the form of entertainment tax. Besides non-implementation of policies and programmes of the film sector initiated by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting; the Art & Culture Department of Manipur has so far not received any projects/schemes and funds for FILMS provided by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting for the last 40 years since 1980.

Current status of film industry

FILM PRODUCTION started in Manipur on April 9, 1972 with the Manipuri feature film-Matamgi Manipur. During the celluloid period from 1972 to 2014, Manipuri film industry produced only 64 films, as per record of the Central Board of Film Certification. The digital film started in Manipur in 2016 with the release of Paban Kumar's Loktak Lairembee. With 3 films in 2018, 12 films in 2019 and 3 films in 2020; total digital films so far produced in Manipur were 19 only.

FILM EXHIBITION started in Manipur before the World War II. In 2000, there were more than 60 cinema halls in Manipur. With the advent of Cable TV and Video as well as the ban on Hindi films in the State, the number of cinema halls sharply decreased due to lack of patronage from the Government.

In this Digital era, where all the mass communication media- Press and Electronic media like Radio and TV had switched over to digital technology, there is no single cinema hall in Manipur having digital cinematographic apparatus.

According to 'Theatres List" uploaded by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on its website for empanelment of Digital Cinema, Assam has 71 cinema halls, Meghalaya has 5, Tripura 4, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim 2 each, Nagaland 1. Manipur and Mizoram are not in the list.

Can we say that Manipur has a vibrant film industry without a visible market ?

FILM INDUSTRY is not only the major provider of employment to the youths and a great platform for enhancing human talent and creativity but also a major source of revenue for the Government. There were around 10,000 persons working in the production sector and 3000 in the exhibitor sector in Manipur. The State Government could earn more than Rs one crore as revenue from the amusement tax in 1995-96, 1996-97 and 1997-98. And now, it is almost zero.

Conclusion :

In view of the deteriorating situation of Manipuri Film Industry and the failure of the Art and Culture Department in dealing with the subject of FILM, there is an urgent need to bring back subject of FILM from the Art and Culture Department to its original Department of Information and Public Relations to streamline the proper working on FILM in the State in coordination with the Ministry concerned.

Setting up a Manipur State Film Finance and Development Corporation Limited is also urgently called for a vibrant film industry in Manipur, in the same line of National Film Development Corporation Ltd in the Centre and State Film Development Corporations in other States. Without a Film Finance Corporation, the film industry in Manipur cannot be visible.

Recently, the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 23, 2020 approved to merge four of its film media units, namely Films Division, Directorate of Film. Festivals, National Film Archives of India, and Children’s Film Society, India with the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) Ltd under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Here lies the importance of a State Film Development Corporation in Manipur. The umbrella organisation, NFDC, consequent upon the merger of Film Media Units will be uniquely placed with regard to promotion, production and preservation of filmic content – all under one management.

The vision of the new entity will be to ensure balanced and focused development of Indian cinema in all its genres-feature films, including films and content for the OTT platforms, children’s content, animation, short films and documentaries. With more than 3000 films produced in a year, India is the largest film producer in the world with an industry led by the private sector.

Is Film a medium or an art form?
Yes, it is a medium- the most powerful medium which belongs to the Department of Information and Public Relations.
Save Manipuri Film Industry.

(Concluded )

* Meghachandra Kongbam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a Swarna Kamal Awardee for Best Film Critic of National Film Awards 2015,
a member of FIPRESCI-India (International Federation of Film CriticsIndia),
President of the Film Society of Manipur and
former Director of Information and Public Relations, Government of Manipur
This article was webcasted on March 04 2021.

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