The announcement of a Hindi bio-pic on Mary Kom immediately after the five times World Champion won the Olympic medal backed no less by a producer who is an acclaimed film maker in his own light was big news for the state. Unfortunately, the news got missed in the home media, which could possibly be because of the blanket ban on Hindi films and Hindi language based entertainment in the public sphere which was imposed from 2000 onwards by an underground armed group. That ban as we know, killed off the movie theatre circuit though a few theatres still stand that shows Manipuri digital films. That ban on Hindi films also co-incided with a phase where-in cinema multiplexes with increased seats, technically polished sound systems and other assorted film watching paraphernalia got introduced across the country. Manipur still has to see a decent movie theatre that is clean, has good seats and with safety norms inbuilt, see the light of any multiplex. And while the Manipuri film industry may still be churning out box office potboilers, the reality also is that not many people will find it worthwhile to catch the pictures at any of the theatres in the state.
Much has changed in the 14 years of the ban on Hindi films in theatres and on the local cable TV in the state, including ushering the Manipuri digital industry. With the emergence of the Dish TV service, people can now tune in to their favourite TV channels and watch the films that are on offer, thereby rendering the ban on Hindi films at best cosmetic. While at one point of time, posters of Hindi film actors were stopped from being sold in the markets of Imphal and other districts with newspapers being pulled up for carrying Hindi film related news in the ‘entertainment’ section, the impending Hindi film bio bic ‘Mary Kom’ is perhaps a reminder that the ban needs to go. The release of two theatre posters in the form of the first look for ‘Mary Kom’ starring popular Hindi film actor Priyanka Chopra is currently creating an immense buzz in the social networking world. There have been many voices questioning the casting Priyanka Chopra instead of someone from the region whose looks would be more in line with the way the diminutive Olympian looks like. But those who follow the business of cinema will know that producers and film makers alike put in their finances and efforts behind what are known as bankable actors and those whose association with a venture will bring in better returns. This is true not just for the Hindi film industry but also in other film scenarios across the world.
The film and Mary Kom, the boxer will have gained in name for the attempt to tell the story of a woman who took up a sports that is not really encouraged in India, and much less for women and then going to win the World Championships for five times, ultimately capping it with an Olympic bronze medal. The losers will be the people of Manipur who will not be able to watch the film when it releases across the country. The losing score for Manipur started much earlier because of the ban on actors from the state not being allowed to work in the Hindi film industry. The scare generated by the long-standing ban also ensured that the film makers steered clear of making locations in the state important landmarks in the film. Having the film made in the state would also have ensured that technical support would have included those from the pool of film making talent that the state has.
Mary Kom herself has gone on record stating to national media forums saying that the Hindi film bio-pic on her life would serve as a source of inspiration for young people, while expressing hope that the ban on Hindi films in Manipur would be lifted so her film can be screened. But till the boxer sits down with the various civil society groups and assorted associations operating in the state to create a safe space for bringing her film to the big screen here, the film ‘Mary Kom’ will eventually end as a mere footnote tossed around in social networking sites.
Leader Writer: Chitra Ahanthem