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Review | Author Meghachandra Kongbam’s ‘Manipuri cinema’ takes us through the history, long cultural heritage

Express News Service

In this book, which marks 50 years of Manipuri cinema, author Meghachandra Kongbam, a film critic and former director, of State Information and Public Relations (Manipur), gives an insight into the history of Manipuri cinema, which has largely remained unknown to the world outside. Kongbam asserts that the industry, despite being fairly young, has created a significant place for itself in world cinema today.
Beginning from the inception of the film industry, the book takes the readers through the works of 
its pioneers, and how it has evolved to keep up with the digital era among other things. The author speaks 
of the long cultural heritage of Manipur in detail, and how it has contributed to the richness and depth of the films from the region.

The arrival of motion pictures and even the magic lantern (a simple projector to show photographic slides), which first came to Manipur in 1890 during Christmas, have been captured in detail, in the backdrop of the glorious history of the state, which dates back to 33 AD. Kongbam also pays tribute to the personalities who took the industry to prominence, such as MK Priyabrata, the father of Manipuri cinema. The younger brother of King Bodhachandra, he used to make documentary films with his eight-mm Bell & Howell movie camera. His film, Reception Ceremony of Assam Governor Sir Robert Neil Reid, is considered to be one of the most historically significant pieces of work.

Individuals and teams, whose works did not achieve immediate success, but went on to become significant contributions in terms of making Manipuri Cinema a reality, also find mention in the book, alongside several interesting anecdotes and instances peppered through the narrative.

The story of Karam Monomohan Singh, a timber merchant, a jungle contractor dealing with spices and a pisciculturist, who made the first Manipuri film, makes for an interesting read. It was over a drinks party, amid soaring spirits that Singh took a vow to produce a film in a month. And he did! Another interesting story is how well-known lyricist Chandam Shyamacharan Singh, all of a sudden, turned producer and director of a film in 1985. He went on to produce three more feature films, which were all accepted with great enthusiasm by the audience.

The book, in chronological order, mentions and lists the works of all prominent personalities associated with the Manipuri cine world, besides listing all the films, which have been made since 1972 till 2021.
Kongbam also highlights the challenges that the Manipuri film industry has been facing, as well as the efforts being made by associations, personalities, artists and local film bodies to improve its status.
For those who want to take a deep dive into the genesis, evolution, journey and the current status of the world of Manipur cinema, this book by Kongbam is certainly a handy encyclopaedia.

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