Manipuri film's identity - Is there any?

By: Rakesh Soram *

Now-a-days along with the explosive growth of Manipuri film industry ,one topic that is discussed most among film makers, film buffs like me is regarding the identity of Manipuri film. I have came across many articles written by film makers, film lovers, film critics, etc about Manipuri films. But, they only seem to say that Manipuri film is good.

Sometime back there was a row between a film maker and a newspaper columnist published in the newspaper.

The reason was - the columnist mockingly mentioned in one of his column the following words - "Even if there are persons who can call Manipuri video film, Manipuri film". The film maker was obviously unable to digest that joke and what he wanted to say through those written row was obvious i.e. Manipuri film is good.

It is true that the method of film production starting right from shooting to projection in cinema houses in Manipur is entirely in video format - that too in digital video format previously it was analog video. But in my opinion what is important is not the format - if we want, we could make a celluloid version of the videos - but there will be few takers. What is important is the quality of the movies churned out by the Manipuri film industry.

The quality of a film does not depend on the format (but there is a certain dreamlike quality in celluloid movies that is hard to capture on video camera, but we can fake that also if we want with softwares like Silver bullet during post production stages) The new installment to the ever popular Star Wars were entirely shot in video. But the cameras used were HD camera. Post production was also entirely done in video format and finally the finished result was transferred to celluloid. Even if that movie was entirely shot and post- production done in video format that movie was a great hit.

Another famous movie that have video footage is Blair Witch Project. Most part of that movie was shot in black and white by using a 35 mm movie camera but those part of the movie which were in color were shot using a very cheap camcorder costing around 300 US dollar. But that cinema was also a great hit. And it became the highest grossing film ever, from an independent film maker. What I want to say from these example is that the quality of a movie does not depend upon the format, it depend upon the creativity of the film makers, actors, everyone involved in the film making process.

In my opinion there is no such a thing as quality in present day Manipuri movies (except a few films - Hujik ooiriba Manipuri film sidi matam lenfam khangdaba mayam ama pulap punsinlaga pung ama, ani Din lemminaba haibaduni).

But the question is, is there such a thing as a unique identity of Manipuri cinema?

As we know most of the major movie producing country have built a unique identity of it- s own. For example,
(1) Hollywood movies are associated with high overblown budget, larger than life image of actors, sex, slick camera works, huge box office returns, sometimes huge loss
(2) Japanese movies are associated with long takes, slow and deliberate acting, poetic themes etc.
(3) Bollywood movies are associated with mindless themes, song and dance fiesta.

Then, what about Manipuri cinema?

Is Manipuri cinema just a mindless plagiarism of Hindi movies? There is, for the present no such thing as unique identity of Manipuri films for now. There is such a dearth of creativity among Manipuri film makers that they are copying everything, everything starting right from the storyline to the music, to even costumes, to what not.

But the situation seems to be improving of late, even if it is in a small measure. Sometime the camera works, editing, music are so perfect and original that one forgets that one is watching a Manipuri film. But it is sad that those part of the film is mostly in songs and those moments don-t last long ( eg Telanga Mamie Title song, Oikhiba yai Meera memcha). Anyway this is a good start in the right direction.

The time will come one day, not far in the future ,when we will be proud to say- Oh! this is a Manipuri feature film, when we see a Manipuri film in a, say pay, Satellite channels. Three cheers to a bright Future of Manipuri Cinema!!

* Rakesh Soram is a self confessed cinema buff and contributes for the first time to
He can be contacted at daket_analyst (at) yahoo (dot) com .
This article was webcasted on March 07, 2008.


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