Irengbam Ongbi Bedamani Devi : 'Indrani' of Lamja Parshuram

Daniel Chabungbam *

Irengbam Ongbi Bedamani Devi

Irengbam Ongbi Bedamani Devi

In 1974, the film "Lamja Parshuram" directed by Aribam Shyam Sharma showcased the remarkable talent of Wahengbam ningol Irengbam Ongbi Bedamani Devi. Born in 1951 at Takhel Leikai, Imphal, she was the daughter of Wahengbam Ibotombi Singh and Rajkumari Sanatombi Devi. Her union with Wing Commander I. B.K. Singh, son of Irengbam Yaima Singh from Iroishemba Lamdeng Khunou, added another chapter to her life.

Bedamani, a multi-talented individual, has achieved numerous qualifications including a BA LLB, MTT, PET, and a diploma in Manipuri Dance. With a passion for teaching, she established a society named after her husband in the beautiful town of Manali, Himachal Pradesh. It was there that she founded the esteemed Springfield Montessori School. Bedamani resided in Manali with her children, leading a fulfilling life. As a skilled dancer, she showcased her talent not only in India but also abroad. Her remarkable abilities led her to represent India in the prestigious International Folk Dance Festival held in Europe.

Bedamani portrayed the character of Memcha in the groundbreaking Manipuri film Matamgi Manipur (1972), captivating audiences with her performance. She then went on to shine in the leading role of Indrani in the film Lamja Parshuram (1974), showcasing her versatility as an actress. Additionally, she graced the screen in the Manipuri documentary film Sanaleibak, further establishing her presence in the film industry.

Surprisingly, film was not her first choice for a career. At the tender age of 7 or 8, she enrolled in the Dance Academy to study dance. During her college years, she also dabbled in drama, showcasing her talents as both an actress and a dancer. When the opportunity to be a part of the first Manipuri film, "Matamgi Manipur," arose, everyone believed that Bedamani would be the perfect fit for the role of Memcha. However, she never anticipated being cast in the film and didn't actively pursue it. Nevertheless, her joy knew no bounds when she was approached for the film. The filmmaking process back then was vastly different from what it is today, with its digital advancements. In those days, actors were given scripts and rehearsals were conducted meticulously. Multiple takes and cuts were a part of the process, but they embraced it, believing it to be the essence of filmmaking. They also learned a great deal from the esteemed Eigya Shyam, who guided them throughout the journey.

Irengbam Ongbi Bedamani Devi

Irengbam Ongbi Bedamani Devi

Karam Manimohan's production, "Matamgi Manipur," was a captivating social play that showcased the versatility of its lead actress. She effortlessly donned pants and various other outfits for her role, adding depth to her character. The film was entirely shot in the vibrant city of Kolkata, with the talented cameramen hailing from outside the region. The director, Devkumar Bose, was a Bengali from Bengal, bringing his unique perspective to the project. Shooting in Kolkata allowed the actress to explore a wide range of dresses that were not readily available in Manipur, eliminating any wardrobe-related challenges. Additionally, the experienced makeup artist ensured that her appearance perfectly complemented her character, enhancing the overall impact of the film.

Gurumayum Narayan Sharma produced the film Lamja Parshuram, which was mostly shot in Kolkata. However, some scenes were also filmed in Manipur. Lamja Parshuram was the third film to be made in Manipur, following Brojendro gi Luhongba. During that time, films were not made for commercial purposes. The actors did not ask for or receive money for their performances, but rather for the success of the production. The entire team was thrilled at the prospect of a Manipuri film being made. Nowadays, actors usually demand a fixed amount of money, but back then, nobody took any payment. Instead, the producers would gift the actors with the costumes they wore in the films.

After the release of Lamja Parshuram, there was an overwhelmingly positive response from many people. Interestingly, some even mistook her for the actress who played Indrani in the movie. This captivating film held the attention of audiences for over 100 days in theaters. Compared to the past, today's artists have incredible talent. The progress in Manipuri films is truly remarkable. However, since the film she starred in was one of the earliest in Manipuri cinema, it went unnoticed by viewers. Whenever she visited Manipur, she made sure to watch numerous Manipuri films, both in theaters and through internet streaming and CDs. She couldn't help but notice that contemporary films often have dialogue that sounds artificial. While there are indeed many exceptional actors, they still have room to improve and must continue to work harder.

Teaching is her passion. She has been dedicated to the profession since 1993. Her husband, a wing commander in the Indian Air Force, tragically lost his life during the Kargil War in 1993. Following her husband's untimely demise, the Defence Ministry inquired about her family's future settlement. Considering her children were born outside Manipur, she made the decision to settle in the beautiful town of Manali in Himachal Pradesh. Prior to that, she resided in Chandigarh for a remarkable 12 years.

In the beautiful state of Himachal Pradesh, there existed a strict rule that prohibited outsiders from purchasing land and settling down. However, thanks to the intervention of the Defence Ministry, she managed to acquire a piece of land in her own name. This extraordinary individual went on to establish a society in honor of her late husband, and under its banner, she founded the esteemed 'Springfield Montessori School'. Taking on the roles of both Director and Principal, she tirelessly oversees the operations of the school.

What makes this institution truly unique is that it stands independently, without any partnerships or financial assistance. It is solely sustained by the efforts of this remarkable woman, along with the support of her son, daughter, son-in-law, and daughter-in-law. Despite enjoying a substantial pension as a war widow, she does not run the school for personal or commercial gain. Instead, she selflessly operates it with a deep sense of social responsibility.

Despite her fondness for visiting Manipur, she was unable to do so due to her busy schedule. On the other hand, Manali enjoys a lengthy winter vacation and a brief summer break. Therefore, if she wishes to be in her homeland, the ideal time would be during the winter season.

Manipur is a land of contrasts, where the winds of change have blown in various directions. The landscape has transformed, with even a majestic flyover gracing the city of Imphal. However, amidst these changes, a sense of insecurity lingers among the people. Once upon a time, tranquility reigned supreme, and the atmosphere was filled with freedom and peace. Sadly, the present reality is different, as fear has taken root in the hearts of the locals. Nevertheless, Manipur remains a breathtakingly beautiful place, deserving of attention and admiration. Efforts must be made to entice more tourists to this enchanting land. For it is only through the restoration of peace that true development can flourish.

See a photo gallery of Irengbam Ongbi Bedamani Devi here

* Daniel Chabungbam is a frequent contributor to
This article was webcasted on December 21 , 2018 and updated on Janaury 1 2019 for minor edit.


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