Manipur’s first-ever gay-themed flick “Oneness”, starring Priyakanta Laishram, Maya Choudhury, Suraj Ngashepam, and Sachinker Sagolsem, began its principal photography on 19 January 2022 in Imphal.
By Daniel Sagolsem
Written and directed by the prominent filmmaker Priyakanta Laishram, the film is considered one of the most powerful projects in the narrative of Manipuri Cinema. Under Priyakanta Productions, it is produced by Roushil Singla and Priyakanta Laishram.
All set for its theatrical release in October-November 2023, it took Laishram two years to develop and finalize the script and another eight months to find an actor to play the lead role. Every mainstream actor denied the role because it was the role of a gay man. Manipur never had any gay flicks until Oneness, so it was something not so comfy for any Manipuri actors to take on the role. Better late than never, after several trials and tribulations, Laishram found his “Pamheiba Hijam” (the movie’s character) in actor Suraj Ngashepam.
Funded independently by Priyakanta Laishram and his co-partner Roushil Singla, the film is made on a meager budget of Rs. 15 Lakh (18,272 US Dollars), without any sponsorship from anyone.
Regarding the funding of the film, Laishram said, “Considering my kind of films, I could never find any producers who could finance my films. I have always been an independent filmmaker. This was the first time I found someone who truly believed in my vision and was ready to invest in my movie. He (Roushil Singla) and I, are now the producers of this movie.”
The film is based on the tragic life story of a Manipuri gay youth, Ivan Martin (name changed). Laishram came to know about the story in 2020 when he met the victim’s cousin through his popular Manipuri talk show Up-Close With Priyakanta Laishram Season 01. The research on the movie was mostly done by him. Even though some part of the movie has been fictionalized, a major portion of the movie was reconstructed through the victim’s accounts of the events.
The film wrapped up its shoot on 28 March 2022 with a heartfelt note from Laishram dedicated to the victim, which was publicized on his social media handles. He wrote – “Blessed are the memories we share, you and I, your skin was my skin, and your heart was my heart. Forever, but no more, I loved you like no other. On this, our last day, I sit in immense gratitude that I told your story. Your story of love, betrayal, forgiveness, reflection, and most importantly, of LOVE. Playing you has taught me compassion, patience, kindness, and most importantly self-worth. You have inspired me in more ways than one. I love you.”
The film’s official trailer was launched in Imphal at Hotel Yaiphaba on 18 April 2022. The film also features Harendra Laishram, Rojesh Saikhom, Ramva Leishangthem, and Yaiphabi Toijam amongst others. Boong Konjengbam and Ibomcha Irom are the main cinematographers and Tina Laishram is the assistant director of the movie.