Leader Writer: Paojel Chaoba
Manipur is a place where incident’s that defy logic occurs, and the best part is that the wrongs are projected to the public as the truth. An inimitable style and conduct of individuals, organizations that are well connected in the State.
The 8th Manipur Film Festival which is objected at screening quality films and moreover for promoting the film industry in the State has been mired in controversy. The jury members of the festival have in their cinematographic wisdom judged that standards of the national award winning films are not fit to be screened at the state festival. Leipaklei and Phijigi Mani, The Silent Poet, Gun and a God which have been recognized in a national and international cine arena have been deemed unworthy! Though the wisdom of the jury members are final and binding , the question which begs a rational answer is on what grounds have these films not been shortlisted ?
Is it maybe that the digital mainstream films with the melodramatic formula of; boy meets girl, fall in love, a jilted lover cast as a villain but finally a walk into the sunset with the overdose of dancing in the woods musical scenes qualify as ‘quality films’ and are more aesthetically refined then the national award winners. Or perhaps, the jury members are more fans of these commercial chocolate films than fine cinema and a Akira Kurosawa, Vittorio De Sica or Satyajit Ray directed film may not make it if their work entered for the Manipur State Film Festival.
It may not be an unfounded assumption if the enlightened juries have never heard or seen the works of these mentioned filmmakers. The thought that film is an art form may have escaped their notice while being preoccupied with our Kaiku-Bala musicals and other commercial mainstream films. It can be pointed out that the celluloid productions of the early 80s had been a costly affair for the producers and filmmakers struggled in their profession. However, “Olangthagi Wangmadasu” screened at Friends Talkies for 30 weeks and outran the popular Bollwood blockbuster “Sholay” shown at Usha cinema. Many films like Imagi Ningthem, Ishanou, Sanakeithel etc have received international attention and awards, carving a niche for Manipuri films in the global film map.
However, with the introduction of the digital camera and the cost of production becoming less, editing becoming more technically easier, there has been an upsurge in film production since 2001. For this current year, nearly 60 digital films have applied for certification. The sad part is that Manipuri film production has remained more quantitative and not qualitative. This may be due to the fact that majority of filmmakers lack proper schooling in directorial knowledge and filming know-how. Sometimes , an individual having a good digital camera may double up as producer, director etc. The producer may come in the guise of a contractor or individuals with deep pockets and forking out a few lacs hardly matter to them.
Word of the grapevine tells that some producers just finance films to get proximity with the actors and to be amongst the minuscule glitterati of the Manipur film world. Another issue may be pointed out that aside from the mediocricity being churned out, another lack is of competent film critics. It can be seen in some print publications that some self styled reviewers or critics sum up their work by writing out the storyline of the films instead of a critical analysis. Then, on the other hand one feels that they may not be blamed as there may be nothing worth reviewing for majority of the commercialized films. Small wonder that shelf-life or viewership of these films is limited to a span of weeks.
One assumes that some of these factors may be the cause of the national award winning films being left out from the ongoing film festival. On the other hand, concerned authorities of the MFDC should have at least a vague idea of conducting a film festival and how it should be presented to the public. There are no advertisements in the media of the screening schedule for the festival beside the myriad complaints inclusive of unethical practice conducted in selection.
The MFDC should allow the non-feature films which have no commercial purpose to be screened at the fest. Documentaries and makers should be promoted as they capture the realities and records them as visual archives. The directors in their films also highlight issues of the society and communicate it to the public through the medium of films. As non commercial film, documentaries only get chances in the big screen during festivals. Documentaries are considered as serious film, and hence explained for the kind information of the jury members of the festival and the organizers. Gross ignorance of not screening out the minimum number of documentaries being produced borders not on promotion of film but rather of uprooting it.
Someone said that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. So, let us all ‘do’ our individual parts. Bringing about a change in Manipuri films begins from viewing good cinema, let the public be shown good films.