No other film has generated such intensity of debate than the film ‘Mary Kom’, in the recent times. Mary Kom had shared that she never imagined that a film would be made on her. In the same vein, Mary might not have imagined that the film could invoke the kind of debate that has been taking place. The debate had already started much before the film was made. It started when it was announced that a popular actor from Mumbai would act as Mary on the silver screen. Mary had wanted the film to be released in Manipur. According to her, she had approached even the State Chief Minister to arrange screening of the film in Imphal. But it did not materialise as Hindi films are currently prohibited to be screened by an underground outfit in the State. Some cinema lovers from Imphal have purposely flown to Guwahati just to witness the film. In spite of the ban, pirated copies of the films, mostly theatre-print are available in plenty in Imphal now. The aftermath of the viewing has been significant in terms of viewers’ response. One has never witnessed such ardent response over a film. Such is the magnificence of Mary.
However, it is not only the film ‘Mary Kom’ that deserves a good debate. We need debates concerning all popular movies because they give strong suggestions of how a cultural industry reacts to a period of economic, political and social crisis in a society. And it has been said that one of the major difficulties involved in understanding a popular genre is how to unearth the different layers of ideological communication within the complex processes that go into the making and receiving of a movie. Manipur film industry, for that matter, produces at an average 60 feature films per year. Some of the Manipuri films earn the status of ‘box office hit’. A pertinent question is whether we can afford to leave the popular Manipuri films ‘un-debated’. For how long are the debaters going to sideline these films, saying that these films do not meet the demand of their aesthetic sensibility or cinematic excellence. An informed debate on Manipuri cinema will benefit both the film maker and the audience. This will help shape the understanding of cinema as an audience, and also help the film makers in widening their cinematic horizon. Coming back to the ‘Mary Kom’ debate, one has to admit that it encompasses a wide range of issues that have been part of our existential crisis, in this corner of the country. It has been exhilarating to witness some of the best minds taking part in the debate, employing the best of their intellectual arguments to register their thoughts. The debates on the social networking sites have spilled over to other spaces. Some of the debaters have made themselves heard by writing on the newspapers. This is no insinuation that newspaper is the best site for a debate. And by debate, we do not mean over-intellectualising the subject, leading to academism; neither the debate should reduce to a verbal slugfest. Manipur as a society have seen debate on a strangle hold. Let the current debate on the film ‘Mary Kom’ pave ways for more serious engagements in the days to come.
Leader Writer: Senate Kh