In what could be termed a turning point of the Manipur film industry and its awards, for the first time ever in the state, a third gender was conferred with the Best Actor Award at the 14th Manipur State Film Awards, 2022 on Saturday. Even as third gender persons have been long associated with Manipuri Cinema when it comes to make-up and costumes, the award distribution ceremony gave a reason for everyone to celebrate as Bishesh Huirem strode on the MSFDS Palace Auditorium stage in the spotlight to receive the award from Manipur Governor La Ganesan during the ceremony.
The 33-year-old actress was given the award for her sterling performance in portraying a transgender character in the film 'Apaiba Leichil' (floating clouds), which also clinched the Special Mention Award.
Two other actors, a male and a female each were also honoured with the Best Actor Awards.
Huirem is a renowned figure among the transgender community with many beauty pageant awards under her belt. She had represented India at the Miss International Queen for Transgender held in Thailand in 2016. She has a degree in professional fashion design from Garden College Bangalore.
During an interaction with reporters, Bishesh Huirem expressed immense joy over the third gender artistes in Manipur being given the much-deserved recognition.
She, however, lamented that third-gender actors are oftentimes given only the role of a comic character in popular films. Nevertheless, she expressed positivity that the film industry is beginning to recognise the presence and contribution of transgenders as in Shumang Leelas.
Director of Apaiba Leichil, Bobby Wahengbam noted that the film is among the few that tries to portray the struggles of third gender people in the society. He also expressed joy over the film being able to achieve a milestone as Manipuri Cinema turned 50 years old today.
Meanwhile, speaking during the award distribution ceremony, Governor La Ganesan opined that much of the nation’s history is being imparted through movies. The Governor, while noting that cinema is a powerful medium, exhorted the State’s filmmakers to produce films that showcase the diverse and rich culture of Manipur. He also vowed that he will extend all possible support to facilitate the growth of Manipuri Cinema.
The Best Feature Film Award went to ‘Eikhoigi Yum’ directed by Romi Meitei and produced by Chingshubam Sheetal. The best Direction Award was handed over to Bobby Haobam for the film ‘Rongdaife’.
As for the non-feature section, the Best Non-Feature Film was bagged by ‘Ayekpasinggi Pukkei’, directed by Debendra Thiyam and produced by Brojeshwori Maibam. The film also won the awards for Best Film of a Debut Director, Best Audiographer, Best Music Direction and Best Voice Over or narration. ‘Pabung Syam’, directed by Haobam Paban Kumar and produced by Films division, Mumbai won the Best Biographical Film. The film also won the award for Best Director.
Earlier during the day, during the observation of ‘Mami Numit’, the birth of Manipuri Cinema, Manipur's legendary filmmaker, Aribam Syam Sharma fumed over a remark by a few personalities that Manipuri Cinema will evanesce considering its present state of affairs.
The internationally acclaimed filmmaker expressed a desire for the younger generations to strive harder, seek advice from seasoned artistes and get professionally trained to foster the growth of Manipuri Cinema. He further pointed out that there are negligible technological disadvantages in the present day.
Besides, Manipur has a rich culture, he said and junked the idea that Manipuri Cinema will fade away.
The attendees of the 'Mami Numit' observation paid floral tributes to departed pioneers of Manipuri Cinema at the Ningshing Nungbi, Memorial Stone erected inside the MSFDS complex.