Celebrating Fifty Years of Manipuri Cinema

13 Apr 2021

A Milestone

Even if Mathematics cannot give an absolute answer to how big the number ‘fifty’ is, for those who had travailed for the creation of Manipuri Cinema, who have been through successes and failures in the evolutionary journey of Manipuri cinema, it is going to be a prosaic answer ‘A huge number.’

Yes, the number is going to be a majestic number to the family of the Manipuri film industry as it highlights the thousands of obscure memories from how thrilled and ecstatic the Manipuris were when they witnessed history on April 9, 1972, with the release of the first Manipuri feature film ‘Matamgi Manipur’. A big CONGRATULATIONS to the family of the Manipuri film industry for stepping into the milestone of its fifty years of service and dedication in beguiling the audience of Manipur and safeguarding and promoting the cultural heritage of Manipur with an aesthetic flavour! In order to pay proper homage to the pioneers, flag bearers and guardians of Manipuri cinema who have worked hard to promote the cultural heritage of Manipur through the medium of cinema, let’s have a glimpse of flagged films and events in the history of Manipuri cinema.

Matamgi Manipur, 1972 (B &W)

It is the first Manipuri feature film released on the 9th April 1972 simultaneously at ‘Usha Cinema’ and ‘Friends Talkies’ in Imphal and at ‘Azad Cinema’ at Kakching. To commemorate the day, ‘Mami Numit’ (Day for Cinema) is being observed on the 9th of April every year in Manipur.

Direction and Screenplay: Devkumar Bose

Story: Arambam Samarendra

Brojendragee Luhongba, 1972 (B &W)

It was released shortly after ‘Matamgi Manipur’ in 1972. it holds a special place in the history of Manipuri cinema as it was the first Manipuri feature film to be directed by a Manipuri, Sapam Nodiachand popularly known as S.N. Chand.

Direction, Production, Screenplay, Music: S.N. Chand

Story: Lamabam Kamal Singh

Imagi Ningthem, 1981 (B &W)

Imagi Ningthem brought Manipuri Cinema on the international map. Directed by the maestro Aribam Shyam Sharma, the film was awarded the Grand Prix at the Festival of Three Continents, Nantes in 1982.

Direction: Aribam Shyam Sharma

Story and Screenplay: M.K. Binodini

Sanakeithel, 1983 (B &W)

It is the first Manipuri feature film to be edited by a Manipuri.

The film introduced an example of neo-realism in Manipuri cinema.

Direction, Screenplay, and Editor: Maibam Amuthoi Singh

Story and Music: Nongmaithem Pahari

Langlen Thadoi, 1984 (Colour)

It is the first full-length color Manipuri feature film, also the first film produced by a woman.

Direction: Maibam Amuthoi Singh

Production: Kh. Sakhi Devi for Kay Pee Films International

Ingallei, 1990 (Colour)

It is the first colour film cinematographed by a Manipuri and marked the arrival of the next generation directors

Direction: R.K. Kripa

Cinematography: L.Surjakanta

Lammei, 2002 (Colour)

It is the first digital Manipuri film that was approved for theatrical release and was released on the 24th of May 2002. It marked the transition of two phases in the evolution of Manipuri Cinema- the waning of celluloid cinemas and the rising of digital cinemas. Since its release, there has been a surge in the number of Manipuri films as many production houses ventured into making films.

Direction: O. Gautam and Oken Amakcham

Screenplay: Ch. Inaobi

Film Forum Manipur

The surge in the production of Manipuri cinemas drew attention to have a guardian that can monitor and scrutinise the contents of the cinemas for censorship in order to preserve and promote the authenticity of Manipuri culture. This gave birth to the apex body of Manipuri cinema- Film Forum Manipur in 2005 which has been working towards the upliftment of Manipuri cinema since then.

Present Status and Prospects

There has been a negative connotation overall among the film critics regarding the status of Manipuri films over the last decade. Most of the critics are of the opinion that the quality of Manipuri films needs to be brought up as par the global standards. Also, there have been apprehensions among the film fraternity of Manipuri cinema about the small market for commercial films in Manipur. However, despite the lack of technologies and formal education about such a dynamic and comprehensive art like filmmaking, some filmmakers have been doing commendable works in being able to compete with others on national and international screens and sometimes winning awards which is a big thing. Experts kept on insisting on setting up a governmental policy for proper channelisation and sponsorship to meet the challenges of the upcoming generations in the Manipuri film industry. And, understanding the potential of Manipuri cinema and the economic prospect of it as an industry of the state and being in conformity with the desires of Manipuri filmmakers, film experts and critics of Manipuri cinema, the present prudential government of Manipur finally conceded to a unanimous policy ‘The Manipur State Cine Policy, 2020’ in June 2020. The policy has yet again sparked the dwindled hope of Manipuri cinema lovers.

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