By Waikhom Chitradhani
Imphal (Manipur), April 9: The yearlong golden jubilee celebration of Manipuri cinema began on Friday with the observation of ‘Mami Numit’ (Birth of Manipuri Cinema), the day on which the first Manipuri feature film ‘Matamgi Manipur’ was released in 1972.
Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh unveiled a memorial monolith of Manipuri Cinema being erected at the campus of Manipur State Film Development Society (MSFDS). CM Biren Singh, eminent film personalities, among others offered floral tributes to the departed pioneers of Manipuri cinema.
Speaking at the inaugural function, CM Biren Singh said that he is saddened on seeing the pathetic condition of the reels of old Manipuri celluloid films.
The lack of infrastructure and monetary support are major factors hindering the growth of Manipuri cinema in the international level. Nevertheless, we are striving for a good change. The museum and archive facility is encouraged and the government is ready to extend all possible support for promotion of Manipuri cinema, the chief minister assured.
As part of the inaugural function, SN Chand Cine Archive and Museum aimed at preserving the film heritage of Manipur was also inaugurated by the chief minister. The archive and museum is named after the first Manipuri film director, Sapam Nodia Chand, popularly known as SN Chand.
On the occasion, the director of ‘Matamgi Manipur’, Debkumar Bose, despite having personal health complications, came all the way from Kolkata to take part in the celebration.
The 87 – year old almost broke into tears as he shared his experiences of working on the first Manipuri feature film, which led him to winning the President’s Medal in the National Film Awards for the film.
Recounting those days, Debkumar Bose said “finding the artistes for the film was very difficult. A six month workshop cum training session was conducted prior to the shooting as they had not faced the camera earlier. Nevertheless, the Manipuri artistes are very talented.”
Renowned Assamese Filmmaker Manju Borah stated that cinema being an universal language, has its own regional colour and through this regional colour only, the world audience can be attracted. She maintained that the Northeast region does not have a sizable number of theatres and is still struggling when it comes to expanding audiences for its films.
Founder Director of Film Heritage Foundation, Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, stressed that every film producing state needs to have an archive of its own and celluloid films should be preserved.
While saying that the digital medium is just a marketing tool where a new technology keeps on coming making the previous one outdated, he stated that celluloid is the sustainable and best option.
Shivendra further said that so many negative prints of Manipuri films are at the custody of West Bengal Film Development Corporation. He pointed out the need for preservation of film heritage and urged the Manipur govt to initiate a film heritage movement in the state.
MSFDS secretary Sunzu Bachaspatimayum giving the keynote address said, “A variety of events have been planned to enable Manipur become a cinema hub. While the government has approved the Manipur State Cine Policy last year, a Manipur Cine Commission has been constituted a few days back for judicious implementation of the policy to address the grievances of the film community,” he said expressing confidence that the government will also take forward all the proposals for the holistic growth of Manipuri cinema”.
‘Matamgi Manipur’ was screened as the opening film of the celebration in the afternoon.
On the occasion, pioneers and outstanding artistes were felicitated and “Chief Ministergi Artist Singgi Tengbang” (a welfare scheme for manipuri artistes from Govt.) was also distributed to beneficiaries.
In the afternoon session, the 13th Manipur State Film Awards 2020 were distributed. Altogether 54 awards were distributed. The Lifetime Achievement Award was conferred to Ksh Rashi, one of the pioneers of Manipuri cinema.
Meanwhile, MSFDS represented by the Secretary Sunzu Bachaspatimayum, and Film Heritage Foundation represented by Founder-Director, Shivendra Singh Dungarpur will sign the Memorandum of Understanding for setting up the film archive of Manipur.
The areas of collaboration includes training on film preservation and restoration, consultation on film repair and digitisation of film, conservation and preservation of non-filmic materials, and support in connecting with the fraternity of film archives and international bodies of film archives, a release said.