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Manipuri Cinema Golden Jubilee: Memorandum of Understanding signed to preserve film heritage

Shivendra Singh Dungarpur (left) and Sunzu Bachaspatimayum (right)

On the second day of the ongoing inaugural programme of the yearlong celebration, a cine dialogue was held on “Journey of Manipuri Cinema”. Films from Tripura and Assam, amongst others were also screened. 

TFM Desk

Taking a major step towards preserving the heritage of Manipuri cinema, Manipur State Film Development Society (MSFDS) and Film Heritage Foundation (FHF) inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Saturday. 

The MoU was signed on the second day of the ongoing inaugural programme of the yearlong celebration of golden jubilee celebration of Manipuri cinema. 

In 2015, the executive board meeting of MSFDS decided to set up a film archive for Manipuri cinema but no follow up action was taken until recently. 

Subsequent to the MoU signing, a three day workshop on film archiving also commenced.

The MoU was signed by MSFDS secretary Sunzu Bachaspatimayum and founder director of Film Heritage Foundation Shivendra Singh Dungarpur along with two witnesses each.

Speaking in this regard, Shivendra of the Film Heritage Foundation stated, “Manipur is the only state in the Northeast that has taken such a major initiative for film preservation.”

He also observed that it must be the first time in India as well that an archive and museum with training facilities for preservation and archiving has been opened. The SN Chand Cine Archive and Museum at the MSFDS was inaugurated on Friday as part of the opening programme of the yearlong celebration. 

As agreed by the two parties, he said that the foundation will extend technical support and share expertise to help MSFDS run a fully functional film archive and museum, which can house the state’s cinematic heritage. 

Besides, the foundation will also help in setting a preservation policy for MSFDS, digitising and restoring the films. We have already donated two rewinding tables to the society where the celluloid films can be rewinded for regular cleaning and maintenance, added Shivendra. 

It may be mentioned that Film Heritage Foundation is a not for profit organisation established in 2014 and based in Mumbai working for the preservation and restoration of films heritage across India. 

The founder director maintained that film is an art and just like any other art forms like music, dance, painting, film needs to be preserved as it is the reflection of history, society and who we are. Besides, it is one medium which reflects time, he said. 

Shivendra further noted that the MoU will be for two years and extendable. Nevertheless, the mandate of the foundation is to help organisations like MSFDS preserve the film heritage, he said adding that the idea is not just to recover the things of the past but to preserve for the future as accessibility is equally important.  

While announcing that a major workshop on film preservation and archiving will be organised in November with international experts, he stated, “Let Manipur take the lead in terms of film preservation and hopefully, it will become the catalyst for the whole Northeast to work on film preservation.”

Further stressing on the need for preservation, Shivendra said that India is losing its films at such a fast pace. Going by statistics, 70-80% of films were lost by 1960 and 99% of silent films have been lost. We lost so much film heritage because nobody bothered about them. One main reason is that people think of films as just entertainment and not as an art form, he lamented.

Luckily for Manipur, the participants in the ongoing workshop are very enthusiastic and we have set the target to clean and repair the old reels and create the ideal vault before monsoon as the increase in moisture may worsen the condition of the films, he stated. 

The founder director went on to urge the state government to take initiatives for bringing back the negative prints of Manipuri films being kept in Kolkata with the shutting down of film labs. 

The MSFDS also needs the support of the government in making the archive and museum fully operational, he added. 

Meanwhile, MSFDS secretary Sunzu Bachaspatimayum expressed confidence that the archive and museum will be fully operational in the near future and will go a long way in preserving the state’s cinematic heritage for posterity. 

Meanwhile, the need to streamline the varied phases of Manipur’s film history was deliberated during the Cine Dialogue held on the second day of the inaugural programme of yearlong celebration of golden jubilee of Manipuri cinema on Saturday. 

The dialogue was on “Journey of Manipuri Cinema”. 

After a heated argument between an audience and a panelist about the beginning of digital cinema in Manipur, film activist Salam Rajesh who moderated the Cine Dialogue puts forward the need to streamline the history with proper documentation. 

The moderator pointed out that a seminar held during the silver jubilee celebration of Manipuri cinema in 1997 also recommended that there should be a book on the history of Manipuri cinema. 

Film critic Meghachandra Kongbam and filmmaker Makhonmani Mongsaba were the panelists of the session. 

Makhonmani Mongsaba said that Manipuri cinema did not grow as a lone entity but rather evolved with roots in traditional courtyard plays and theatres.

Even though there were films prior to Matamgi Manipur, the film is considered as the first Manipuri feature film as it was the first to receive censor certificate for public exhibition. Nevertheless, the roles of pioneers like MK Priyabrata, K Ibohal Sharma, SN Chand amongst others should be remembered, he said. 

He further stressed on the need for filmmakers to be closely associated with literature and other art forms. While saying that even Matamgi Manipur was adapted from Arambam Somorendra’s play Tirtha Jatra, he opined that films distancing from literature is not a good sign.

Makhonmani also said that there is a pressing need for film enthusiasts to make sure that the link between each generation of film personalities is not broken.

Meanwhile, Meghachadra Kongbam recounted that the film movement in Manipur gained momentum with the setting up of Film Society Manipur in 1966. In 1971, MA Singh became the first FTII passed out Manipuri. SN Chand tried his hands on Brojendrogee Luhongba, which is the first Manipuri feature film directed by a Manipuri, he said.

He maintained that even though the shooting of Brojendrogee Luhongba was prior to Matamgi Manipur, the later completed first as most of its scenes were shot inside the studio while the former took a little more time. 

Nevertheless, Matamgi Manipur winning a national award is a matter of pride and within 10 years, Imagi Ningthem won the Grand Prix in 1982 at the Nantes International Film Festival, he added.

Later in the afternoon, Cheng Khujok Ama by Meneka Thiyam, Orphanage to Olympics by Bobby Wahengbam were screened. 

In the North East Focus section, On Aroll by Sanjib Das (Tripura), Ishanou by Aribam Syam Sharma and Bulbul Can Sing by Rima Das (Assam) were screened followed by an interaction session with filmmaker Sonia Nepram.

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