By Chitra Ahanthem
It’s been an eventful time for sure in Imphal: events across the town! Along with the Chinjak festival that was held at the Iboyaima Shumang Leela Complex was a 4 day Russian Film Festival organized by the Manipur Film Development Corporation (MFCD) in association with the Russian Centre for Science and Culture, Kolkata. The festival was a very small event and featured only one film screening per day but one area that I could not help but appreciate was the fact that the organizers kept to their time. In Manipur, we are all aware of the Indian Stretchable Time factor, which means events start off well past the time listed. The organizers had a “pass” system for which festival attendees did not have to pay but except for the last day, the 40- seated theatre did not see full attendance. Was it because there were lesser films on show or because of low-key media publicity? This question has to be thought about carefully while planning for forth-coming film festivals which hopefully will have more films. Given that movie theatre halls in the state are in total need of infrastructure changes like incorporating in parking space, placing more dust bins, replace torn and creaky seats into new seats, getting in fire escapes and exits and lots of cleanliness in the toilets, a larger screening space in MFDC would go a long way in making cine lovers happy.
The other festival was a five-day dance drama festival held at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Dance Academy. Knowing from past experiences that the program would not start at the time set in the invitation, our family went casually some 20 minutes late. We waited for another 20 minutes in the audience before the play started for the day. A play performed by the Progressive Artiste Laboratory (PAL) was on the women in Manipur. Since nothing related to the performance was handed to the audience, I cannot recall the exact name of the dance drama/ballet but it was on the various trials faced by women in the state given the nature of conflict and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. And then the ballet did the unthinkable: it had no mention of Irom Sharmila and her fast!
The third festival was related to food. This one was organized to emphasize on health food and naturopathy. But the timing for this festival clashed with that of the mega Chinjak festival and when one fine day, this writer tried to sample what they had to offer, found the festival all wrapped up early in the day!
The last festive occasion that will get a mention here is that of IFP turning 15 years on May 3rd. Keeping our tradition of having a late lunch, we had food around 3 pm with everyone in high (literally!) spirits. Later, encouraged by everyone in the team, someone would have to ask for the day off: me! Pinned down at meal- time, our editor did try not to say either a yes or no to the “Tamo, can today be an off day?” but some clapping over a never said “yes” sealed the day! The day also meant a coming together of sorts for the reporters, machine people, desk-staff to share a meal. It was amusing too to find that we have quite a team of chefs on the IFP roll: good enough to open a stall in the next food festival or at least to start a “side business” of food catering!
And then, there was the screening at Hotel Imphal for the upcoming Miss Manipur contest. 35 tall girls wearing really tall heels peered down at me as I went about taking some candid shots (for camera practice). But the respite from the soaring heat came when many of them opened their mouths to speak. About 60% of the girls had this to say, “I have joined this contest to expose my talents”. It was very tempting to ask which talent they wanted to expose on the forum of a beauty contest.
The beauty and glamour industry is one of big bucks, stress and intense competition in big cities and on the national and international level. Manipur does not have a glamour industry apart from a few ramp shows, a dozen beauty contests every year and the film arena. On the national scene again, wannabe actresses enter beauty contests so they get the attention of film-makers, advertisement campaign people and now corporate team owners for the cricket India Premier League. Here in Manipur, girls who have already featured in a few films here and there join the beauty contest. For those who do win, their journey seems to end with the fake crown.
But this does not have to be so for some contestants do have the intelligence and poise to be groomed for better and bigger things. For this to happen though, organizers have to be clear of whether they organize the beauty contest as a one off event or whether they are seriously looking at probable entries for the Miss India contest. They would have to let go off going for the choices of popular dress designers, which seems to be the trend in Manipur. While elsewhere, the contestants bring in designers on board only for their dresses, looks and styling, here the designers often fill in contestant forms, decide what the contestants to wear etc. It would do well to realize that the designers in Manipur are popular yes, but are yet to mark their touch even on the regional level.