Cinema Talents Galore

The 7th Manipuri Film Festival is underway. The event by no definition
can be described as a crowd puller, with even the media shying away for
most of the days so far, except on the opening day, when VIPs were
present for the routine ceremony. This is rather disappointing, for
indeed those who have been witnessed to daily screenings of the films
entered in the competition, in the main hall, even as the same films
were being assessed in a separate private screening room by the festival
jury, will vouch there is a profusion of young talents in the field, not
only film makers and but artistes. The fledgling industry may have just
learned to walk on its own feet, but if it continues to generate the
kind of talent and passion, let there be no doubt that in the days
ahead, Manipuri film is headed to carve itself a similar niche for
itself as Manipur theatre. That would indeed be a proud moment for

But for this to happen, there are a number of lines of causality to
intersect. First and foremost the fountainhead of talent must sustain.
Of this we have no doubt. Manipur already has a long tradition of
performing arts, including its indigenous theatre �Shumang Lila�, for
the newly arrived film industry to draw succour and vocabulary from.
Manipuri cinema did directly inherit elements of the �Shumang Lila� and
the proscenium theatre, and understandably as the medium developed, this
had at a point become an excess baggage needing to be shed before it was
liberated and found its own idioms and language to communicate in the
characteristic and versatile way that only the film medium can. This
excess baggage was evident in the over dependence on words and
exaggerated gestures, rather than images in all its infinite cinematic
nuances, to tell stories: stories not just of the visible and temporal,
but also of the invisible soul of the society.

What is also equally important for any art to flourish is a critical
atmosphere. Criticism and creativity are foils, and seldom can one
prosper without the other. Men of letters like Samuel Taylor Coleridge
even went to the extent to say that creativity not only would not
prosper, but would not be possible in the absence of such a critical
atmosphere. What is also important is for this atmosphere to be
constructed by informed critics indulging in informed debates on the
subject. Otherwise this atmosphere can also easily become plebeian,
capable of nurturing only art of its own standard. This is perhaps where
the state has seen a shortfall. The moribund media interest in the
current festival is proof. In this sense, events such as the ongoing
film festival are a good beginning. As the festival grows, we hope its
future editions would also have films of known cinematic credential from
outside, both from other parts of India as well as abroad, along with
the film makers, not necessarily in the competition section, but
definitely for screening and discussions. Introduction of new ideas,
techniques, technology and paradigms etc, always have added fresh air to
any field of art. As a young industry, it would have plenty of
drawbacks, but an equal measure of advantages as well. In terms of
technology for instance, as relatively new entrants, it can straight
away jump into the digital age. There were some resistance to this, but
as is inevitable, it has now come to be acknowledged by force of
circumstance that nobody can argue with the future and hope to win. At
this moment, digital image making is the future, and although there are
still some weak areas, let there be no doubt, they would be taken care
of sooner than later.

As a young industry, another major hurdle before it would obviously be
fund paucity. This would tend to pull the industry towards catering to
popular taste alone, promising it more money from the market but putting
it at risk of surrendering its artistic edge. While the market is
important, inability to strike a balance between commerce and art would
be disastrous, for then the hope of Manipuri films carving out a niche
for itself would deplete. The government can do a lot to prevent this
from happening. It has declared film making an industry therefore it can
do its bit to bail it out of its difficult time through tax exemption
and other incentives. It can start by waiving entertainment tax levied
on theatres showing these films provided the exempted tax is fairly
shared between the film makers and cinema hall owners. In this regard,
every well wisher of the Manipuri film enterprise would thank the
Governor of Manipur, Gurbachan Jagat, for his generous offer of
instituting a Governor award for the best Manipuri film each year. The
symbol should go a long way in lifting the spirit of the tottering but
potential-packed industry.
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