An interview with Hijam Bala in February 2011

Interviewer - Ratankumar Ningthouja *

Hijam Surjabala alias Bala (read Hijam Bala's eRang profile here) is a leading actress of Manipur. She was the recipient of the Special Jury Award during the 5th RJ Film Vision Special Award 2010-11 (See a Photo gallery of the award function in here ). The function also marked the observation of the 6th Foundation Day of FAM (Film Academy Manipur).

Bala Hijam

Bala Hijam posing for the Camera

Here's some soundbites and the excerpts from a recent interview of Bala by FAM after receiving the Jury award. FAM interviewer Ratankumar Ningthouja met up with Hijam Bala for this interview.

Here are some excerpts from Bala during the chat up before starting the interview.

"A good film is a film jointly produced by good director, artist, cameramen, film activist."

"It is not an easy task to predict the fate of the film personnel working in the Manipur Film Industry which is filled with deficiency and lack of concern from the Government."

"The limited market space of the Industry got a boost with the coming of the digital format film in 2001-02. With the invasion of the films in digital format, the industry produced numerous films which also provided a platform for job to hundreds of people."

"However our digital film industry is yet to produce films at par with international level film making for no separate and concrete policy has been implemented by the Government. "

"The film personels should, however, be honoured and respected for its relentless and undeterred endeavour to keeping alive the spirit of Manipur cinema.

FAM: Congratulations Bala on your recent award!
Bala: Thank you......thank you so much!

FAM: Today you have received The Special Jury Award. How do you feel?
Bala: I am very happy. My happiness knows no bound, this is the first ever award in my lifetime, that too in the field I love the most, and also thank FAM for giving me the award.

FAM: How did you step into the film world?
Bala: It was my Kaka (uncle) Irom Maipak (cinematographer) who gave me an opportunity to act in front of camera. I was offered a role of a girl appearing as the younger sister of Olen (co-actor) in the film called "Telanga Mamei". Later I appeared on an advertisement for Manikumar Jewelry followed by participating in a modeling competition and gradually went on to take up acting in films.

FAM: In which standard were you during your debut with 'Telanga Mamei'?
Bala: At that time I just finished the seventh standard.

FAM: That means you step in the world of cinema in a very young age. With little experience of acting, I guess, there might be many problems that you might have encountered. Whom do you consult the matter with or have you taken any acting classes?
Bala: I have never taken any acting classes. Kaka Irom Maipak taught me how to pose in front camera in different angles and to act. At the same time, I also got tips from Da Romi Meitei (Director), Cinematographer Kaka RadhaMohon, Da Yaima (Yaimayai), Oja Birjit Ngangom and other elders in the Industry.

FAM: Any problems that you faced as an artist with little knowledge of acting?
Bala: As of now, I manage to keep things under control with the guidance and blessing of the elders. But in my opinion to become a very successful artist and to devote to films, it is a necessary to have acting lessons from a recognized institution. As for me, it was just experienced and with the blessing of the people.

FAM: Name a film during the year 2010 that you enjoyed and are satisfied with?
Bala: That would a film called "Bema Bemani". I enjoyed my role and my part in the film very much. In short I should say that it was a cooperative experience. Da Gokul was my co-actor, all the co-artists also guided me well.

Bala Hijam

Bala Hijam receiving the Special jury award at 5th RJ Film Vision Special award 2011

FAM: How much do you charge for signing a film contract?
Bala: I dont have any specific rates while signing a contract. But normally I would ask 25,000 Rupees but sometimes I don't take the whole amount.

FAM: How do you take a film assignment?
Bala: I don't have any set rules while signing a film but my elders have always said that I need to earn enough experience to handle any film (having only worked in over ten films). They advised me to take scripts that would shape my future in the film industry and I agree with it. So I prefer to take film assignment that could help in shaping the society.

FAM: How far would you take your career as an artist?
Bala: I'm willing to go as long as my audiences love and bless me.

FAM: What is the difference in your life after becoming an artist and before becoming one?
Bala: There are some differences. When you compare an artist with normal person and even an employee of a firm or goverment, being an artist is more difficult as there are a bunch of people that loves you and on the other side, another bunch is waiting for your mistake and to criticize. You cannot simply live your life. As for me, I want to do my best in every respect of life and earn respect and honour.

FAM: We would like you to share the trouble and difficulties that you have faced. While shooting here and there, who takes cares of you?
Bala: Till date, it is my mother who takes care of me. I must say that it is my luck that I have never encountered any trouble, only enjoyment.

FAM: Can you share the most enjoying moments?
Bala: It is when I received appreciation from all corner on the day of release of a hard and time consuming film.

FAM: As you mention that you have worked in over 10 films. Can you tell us the name of the films and directors?
Bala: The first film is Telanga Mamei directed by Oken Amakcha. The second one is Amuktadi Uningee directed by Moirangthem Inao. Khangdredo Nongdamba and Imagi Laman Singamdre directed by Romi Meitei. Nongmadi Soidana and Hangningee Thamoisina of I. Somni. Mihatpa of Kishorjit. Khambaton of Homeshor, Ichagidamak of Jaher-Uddin, Abirkhan and Sanarembi of Pilu.

FAM: Do you do any rehearsal for dialogues before shooting or is it spontaneous?
Bala: I do rehearsal first as I'm yet to master an in-promptu dialogue!

FAM: What relation according to Bala should an artist and a producer must maintain?
Bala: While observing the current trend of Manipur films Industry that relation between an artist and producer is not even enough. But one should maintain a healthy relation. The producer, prior to taking up of a film, must approach and consult the director and artist to clear his/her doubts and bring an understanding. This way the process will go smoothly and healthy relation will prevail.

FAM: Who do think is the most important person or persons are for a film - from the beginning of its making till the end?
Bala: It is the Director!

Bala Hijam

Bala Hijam posing for the Camera

FAM: Do you have any specific working days for taking assignment, how many films do you sign in a year or months?
Bala: I signed about two film in a month or sometimes, if necessary, three.

FAM: How do you view the essence of a film is? And what according to you is a good film?
Bala: Film is a kind of an entertainment, besides it is a media that projects and highlight all the good and bad things about the society. A film is called a good film when it is jointly produced by a good Director, Artist, Camera and Film Personnel.

FAM: What is the profession of your parents and how many brothers and sisters do you have?
Bala: My mother is a simple housewife, an for my father, he runs a small business of his own. We are four brothers and sisters. I have an elder sister, a younger sister and a younger brother. I'm the second eldest amongst my sibling.

FAM: Whom do you want to give your credit?
Bala: My first credit goes to God. Then followed by my parents, my film colleagues, all who guided and taught me. Last but not the least, my special credit goes to Da Gokul.

FAM: As my last question, what is your opinion in the initiatives taken by FAM?
Bala: Despite Governments' apathy to give its concern to the film Industry, the initiative taken by the FAM is very encouraging for the film artists. It is not the matter of how small or big the award is but what matters is the efforts and encouragement. As an artist, I am not able to express how we feel in words. At the same time, the initiative is a big step and everyone should honour and respect it.

FAM: Thank you Bala....
Bala: Thank you Film Academy Manipur. I give my best wishes to the Academy that next time they be able to organize a much bigger event!!!

* Ratankumar Ningthouja took this interview for Manipur Film Academy (FAM) in early February 2011. This interview is originally published in Meiteilon for FAM and later translated in English by e-pao eRang Team. This article was first webcasted on March 02nd, 2011 and later updated on March 3 2011.


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