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Manipuri movies

A cinematic gem

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SCREEN PRESENCE: A still from 'Phijigee Mani' directed by Gautam (below)

Oinam Gautam has learnt filmmaking from Manipuri masters like Aribam Sarma. His films are contemporary, realistic and hugely successful.

All cinephiles know that Manipur makes eminently watchable films. What Oinam Gautam, 35, has done with Phijigee Mani (my only gem) is to put Manipuri films on the national map.

Phijigee Mani, a film about the travails of families caught in times of insurgency, won the 59th National Film Award 2011 for the best regional films in Manipuri. Leishangthem Tonthoingambi, who played the role of Yaiphabee in the film, bagged the Rajat Kamal. It is such a hit among the Manipuri diaspora that it has been screened in London and Singapore as well.

"My foremost priority to make a good film is to give the true essence and taste of the script to the audience, " says the young film maker whose film was also selected and screened for the Indian Panorama at the Indian International Film Festival of India 2011 in Goa.

Gautam's childhood memories include many movie going trips to Imphal's theatres with his mother. He was inspired enough to join a diploma course in multimedia in Hyderabad and then learn filmmaking skills from the late K Ibhol Sharma at his Imphal film institute, starting with editing.

"My zeal to direct films came after I picked up the skills from several eminent Manipuri film makers like Oken Amakcham and Aribam Syam Sharma, " says Gautam who has made 14 feature films so far.

With a small market and meager resources, the rise of the Manipuri film industry is one of the most surprising and heartening success stories of Indian cinema. The first Manipuri feature film Matamgi Manipur was made only in 1972 but the state has managed to notch up 11 national awards so far. These include Debkumar Bose's Matamgi Manipur, Aribam Syam Sharma's Saaphabee, Olangthagee Wangmadasoo, Imagi Ningthem, Ishanou and Sanabi, MA Singh's Sanakeithel, K Ibohal Sharma's Sambal Wangma, Oken Amakcham's Mayophygee Macha and Makhonmani Mongsaba's Chatledo Eidi. Documentary films from the state too have been picking up awards and accolades.

Gautam believes that the tiny film industry in Manipur needs lot of government help at this juncture. "To develop and produce more quality films in Manipur, the state government should adopt a specific film policy. We also want regular film festivals across the state, " he says.

Manipur has witnessed a massive rise in the production of low cost video-format films in the last 15 years. This came after militant outfits put a blanket ban on Hindi films. A large number of Manipuri actors, film makers and technicians then got an opportunity to showcase their talent.

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