Over the past few months or so, there has been an increasing clarion call to revive Manipuri films in the state and help promote tourism and history of the state, Manipur. The newly elected chairman of Film Forum Manipur L Surjakanta, had earlier called for promotion of film tourism by uplifting the status of Manipuri cinema. He also informed that the forum has been striving for promotion of cinema in the state and that there was a need for new policies.
Even the chief minister of Manipur, N Biren Singh, had discussed with renowned Manipuri film maker, Romi Meitei, about films based on the true-life history of Maharaja Kulachandra on how he fought to free Manipur from the clutches of British rule; they are also said to have discussed about a film based on Seven Years Devastation during which the men and women were brutally killed after being tortured.
Indeed, cinemas, over the years, have played a major role in promoting tourism, art and culture or history of a place; the same could be applied to Manipur too. And what is interesting to note here is that, over the last two decades or so, Manipur has seen the rise of digital films, especially following the blanket ban of screening Bollywood movies in entertainment halls in the state. In the process, it helped showcase the various hidden talents of the youths of the state – be it in acting, directing, film making, script writing or the likes.
Once upon a time, music video albums were a craze with many being released one after the other – markets were flooded with Compact Discs (CDs) of Manipuri music albums and sold like hot cakes. However, this shifted to digital films, which, once again, became a trend and attracted fans from across the state to throng cinema halls wherever it was situated. But with the advancement of technology and accessibility of movies online, cinema halls across the state began to fade and thus, movies were being premiered once in a while and hardly seen in cinema halls like before.
And why is this happening to Manipuri films and cinema halls? A recent article in a national magazine reported that Korean cinemas, drama series (known as K-Drama) and songs (known as K-Pops) have ruled the north eastern states. Perhaps, this is due to the lack of implementing history, art and culture of the state into Manipuri films.
As eminent filmmaker Aribam Syam Sharma categorically stated, Manipuri cinema can, indeed, “leap forward if film-makers study and infuse the Manipuri way of life, aesthetics and culture into the films”. Or as chief minister Biren suggested, that the history of Manipur is implemented to help revive Manipuri cinemas.
Many historical movies, be it in Bollywood or Hollywood, have worked and racked in cash rewards besides teaching one historical lesson. So, will implementing history of prominent freedom fighters of the state such as Bir Tikendrajit, General Thangal or Rani Gaidinliu help revive Manipur cinemas and bring back cine goers to cinema halls once again? Will a film on the story of Khongjom War interest the people of the state? Will the story of the Seven Years Devastation help revive Manipuri films?
The answers are written on the wall; therefore, it is, perhaps, time to implement such historical events into Manipuri cinemas and revive the film industry of the state, bringing back the cine goers to cinema halls. And amidst it all, historical lessons will be learnt too.