Mami Sami: Victims of the time

By: Thangjam (O) Joyce Hungyo *

Some visuals haunt you forever, some sound wakes you up untimely and some story lingers to remind you of the obvious and unusual. Mami Sami encapsulates these seemingly vulnerable human dramas and magnificently renders them in idioms sensible to popular consciousness.

Once again, Lancha Ningthouja has proven the infallibility of a strong storyline, an age-old wisdom in moving art, and how a tight line of direction can bring out desired performances from the actors (Sadananda Hamom, Binata Laishram, Venus Philem, RK Kaiku, Ningthoujam Reena, Devita Urikkhinbam, Mayengbam Akshyakumar, Swamikumar, Homeshori and Dhanbir Leishangthem).

Unity and flow of the film is maintained through careful editing unlike other contemporary Manipuri digital films, where seamless flow into the next scene is rare. The film shall remain as the yardstick of excellence in modern Manipuri cinema in times to come.

Has anyone of us pondered over the misery that lies behind a beautiful object, place or a smile?

Just as a captivating smile can hide trillions of emotions - pain & suffering, lost & longing - the magnanimous Loktak lake in all its beautiful glory hides behind it humans struggling to eke out a daily existence. Mami Sami portrays the corruption of this idyllic place by victims of the time and is in fact a battle ground of low intensity armed conflict.

For the first time in a Manipuri cinema, culture, lifestyle, poverty and common daily existence of a place have been beautifully presented to the audience to savour and remember for a lifetime.

Common ethos of the population, where poor and the rich mingle on equal footage is cleverly presented in few scenes of the movie - one pertains to a hospital scene where the injured (of a rally) are not differentiated on class or social positions and another where Tayal's (main protagonist of the story; Binata) attire in Mayek Naiba and Moirang phee during a Lai Haraoba procession was as good as any other women's from the rich family.

There is another captivating scene - of an early morning, misty and blurred, when villagers of the landless floating hutments come out on their canoes to sell their goods. Canopy of the tall eucalyptus trees against the background of the misty lake is a sight to behold; not to forget the haunting chanting of ancient song rhythmically apaced by the frantic strumming of the pena as a background score.

One is reminded of masterworks of Akira Kurosawa for the sheer visuals and sound attempted by Lancha Ningthouja and even the complexity of the plot, although he cannot shake himself completely free from the dictates of commercial movie making.

Mami sami should also be appreciated for its creative efforts at a time marked by strictures and bans in Manipur. I am reminded of some of the creative movements in arts, architecture, cine-making and literature during some of the regimented eras in human history.

For example, McCarthyism will always remain proof of the extremes to which a regime can go and suffocate freedom of the individuals. But it was also the era in which one witnessed birth of some of the most creative artists in American history.

Or take the case of Alexander Solzhenitsyn during the Stalin era. These are obvious reminders of how repression can foster creativity in individuals. Instead of blind imitation of the mainstream Bollywood genre of movies, Lancha has created a movie which is local in taste and hit the popular psyche.

But, what is Mami Sami all about?

Well, many of my friends say it's about the struggle of a bubbly poor girl (Tayal), who lost her first lover, become a widow, marry the first lover and then one fine day realizes her first husband is alive.

This is set at the backdrop of armed conflict in Manipur and how conflict tears apart hope and very existence of the individuals. Very true. But at a deeper level, it tells us the complexity of human emotions.

Woman (already a victim) is victimized and deceived by the "time" we live in. This is an issue which has never come to the fore of discussion by intellectuals and feminists, although everyone symbolically holds dear to the fallacy that women are the empowered and heroines of Manipur - vanguard of human rights. Lancha challenges this popular understanding in his isolatory portrayal of Tayal.

Although the movie could have ended when Wangthoi (male protagonist; Sadananda) slapped Tayal when she attempted suicide, the elaboration of the story with the culmination of a heart-wrenching cry by Tayal is an emphatic reminder on the part of Lancha to stress the point that woman's emotional trauma/suffering has not been recognized at least in the public domain as of today.

The absurd cry churns the "humane" inside us and makes us realize the futility of violence, which has in some form of ripple effect has affected our lives too in Manipur. I find this stating the obvious a necessary part of the movie and a logical conclusion of the powerful narration.

Overall, Mami Sami is an example to show to the world that Manipuri digital cinema has come of age. Salute to the crew of Mami sami.

** I entered this in my diary in the month of June immediately after watching the movie when I visited Imphal. Few days back I shared it with my husband, who wanted me to make it public. I am thankful for his comments and suggestions. Many of my friends working in Delhi ask if the movie has been released in DVD format; if anybody has any idea, do let me know.

* Thangjam (O) Joyce Hungyo (Partner, Ace Jurists, New Delhi) contributes to for the first time.
The writer can be contacted at joyce(dot)thangjam(at)gmail(dot)com .
This article was webcasted on October 22, 2008.


Who is the Best Actress?

  • * Abenao
  • * Binata
  • * Devita
  • * Kamala
  • * Manda
  • * Sonia
  • * Sunila


Powered by Disqus

Back to top