Attending EIKHOIGI IMPHAL INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2022 as a dilettante in cinema:
By Linthoi Chanu, writer/ firstname.lastname@example.org
On the 6th of April, LAIHUI ENSEMBLE and the screening of Chalchitra as the last show in the MSFDS venue concluded the weeklong celebration of an international film festival, the first of its kind. I attended the screening of a few selective films during these events but was profoundly stimulated, or perhaps bothered enough to cluster the laziest of mind to write a few words on the whole experience. I recall my first entry to the hall where our most respected Oja Aribam Shyam gave his due note on his journey as a prolific filmmaker and his vision for Manipur to continue with world-renowned films from our soil. With this, he also stated the understandable call for support and investments towards the production of such in the field. The show begins with MEEPAO, a dance performance choreographed by Surjit Nongmeikapam. Delicate and filled with bodies that gyrated in a lively sonic rhythm, it was sensual.
After the performance, the air shifted to that of longing, excitement, and curiosity. Such was evoked out of the announcement made for the screening of EIKHOIGI YUM by Romi Meitei. I, on a personal note, have admired this particular renowned director long before he transcend into his own sort of metanoia where his works became much more than the hearty chuckle or the tragedy of romance. The film reminded us all of what to expect out of the rest of the week. We were not there for a trifling evening, I was assured. Oja Romi brought Loktak into the theatre, almost literally. The screen filled with the crystalline surface of Loktak while the burbling sound of the water and everything that floats in it encircled our ears. The theme, social, and call for attention towards the dislodgment of the many indigenous inhibitors of the Phumdis in Loktak, the film did the part yet again reminding that the beauty of the lake also bears the cries of its people. The next day, my eyes were glued to the screen. Eche Tonthoi was there! Admired more as a ‘ghost’ of my youth, seeing her again as a subject of suspicion in the film rekindled some old nerves for sure, her wondrous career as an actor intensified. ISHU by Utpal Borpujari is in every way a children's film that all adults should watch, by all means. Perhaps my own decadence into the world of the greyness of adulthood where most of our judgments are premeditated by a system that seldom contains the kindness or affection of one another was perturbed by Ishu’s blunt remarks and courage. Ishu’s friendship with Ambika (played by Tonthoi) is that of trust and respect, the one we often disregard as we mature with time. The film is an optical delight, sprinkled with sands of tales, culture, and the ambiance of the grace of an Assamese village. Kapil Garo shines as Ishu, hardly it occurs to me that he is an actor. Ishu seems to live in him. The theme of the film is eye-opening as a viewer not from Assam. ‘Witch hunting’ and the social evils that come with it could be felt to its depth in the film.
KALKOKKHO is one film that I failed to relish as an audience. Perhaps it did what it was meant to do, to make us relive the trauma of the pandemic that is slowly seeping out of our consciousness as if a memory of a distant past. It was suffocating and ‘Mamuni’ rings in my mind for a few nights thereafter. A refreshing performance by SAM PAA removed all shrinking spirits and took us into a blazing rhythm. As an experimental folk music band, they brought a cluster of traditional music with a tint of modern electric. One must note the harmony of the voices perfectly balancing with the instruments. I shall take my liberty and even point out my admiration for such an ecstatic voice all the while playing the drums to his heart’s content. Right after this, there comes the screening of IEWDUH. I was afraid that my own overly enthusiastic praises for the film might overtake this short writing. In all honesty, I could really write a book’s worth of praises for this film. I loved it. Everything. A market coming alive and telling us several stories. What is there not to like in it? Pradip Kurbah lifted the story beyond imaginable glory with his subtle treatment of the subjects and the narration. There is also the pride of knowing that people are holding their stories with their own pens. To delve into the livelihood of a Khashi town, I convinced myself that I just watched a masterpiece.
The third day was considered unfortunate as I couldn’t attend early and missed the screening of BELOVED. However, joining JANANI’S JULIET and listening to the interaction with Pankaj Rishi Kumar proved the most vital moment for the whole weeklong event. This film welcomed the glimmering tag of being an Oscar entry from India. When discussed with Pankaj Rishi, he was asked about the Oscar entry as the yardstick of recognition of his work. Pankaj, to my delight, answered straight away how it never occurs to his mind that way. He seems pleased, of course, but pointed out the concept of western superiority over their view and choices on art and literature, which we all should try to deconstruct. It struck me. How we wanted validation of some sort for this elevated, elitist status that would set our works apart. Pankaj Rishi’s answer reflects his own respect for his work for what it is and not how it is perceived.
ACASA, MY HOME is yet another documentary that questions our comforts. What exactly is that we called home? Could be rational but nonetheless, made aware of the various essences of lives, far away yet relatable in many ways. Crowds began to form again. Another aura came with the announcement of NINE HILLS ONE VALLEY to be screened. I was one amongst those many who anticipated the film. Quite out of style and also unexpected, a dignitary came out and announced something about the film being an ‘intellectual film’ and warned us not to understand it if not familiar with such a film. The comment must have been made with all good intentions but the tone of undermining the viewer with questionable ‘intellect’ to watch a particular film was born out of the context. How qualified should one be to watch such a film? One must have asked themselves. The movie was touching, theme relevant, and stitched with vivid records of ethnic conflicts, it carries its intended message well and clearly. After the film, I still wondered, ‘what exactly qualifies as an intellectual film? Will I be deemed unintelligent to ask? What if we didn’t like the movie?’ Here, comes the words of Pankaj Rishi more intellectualized. It is the work that matters. Whatever is made, categorized, and segregated be mindful. At the end of the film, we saw Haobam Paban joining the ride in the film. A lot of the audience noted his condescending tone toward the Tangkhul Protagonist. It was indeed disturbing to hear but what I personally perceived at the moment is that it could have been done intentionally to represent our typical Meitei attitude towards the hill people. The sense of superiority was evident, noting that the affiliate is a much more senior person. If done intentionally, I believe Oja Paban must be applauded for the irksome representation that became not so hard to believe as real.
I watched a few more films, all thought-provoking, and some emotionally breaking. Then there was also GUNDA being included in the list. A lot must not be said about this film. But I must add, this is where I witness the process of turning film from entertainment into that a pilgrimage. Disturbed and left with anxious comprehensions, I realized how different and adamant animal activism must go for the west and possibly here in our quiet town too in the future. Sustainability is still up in my chart as an option while humanizing Gunda to the extent of understanding her movements, twitches were uncalled for.
As a dilettante, this piece came together after so much thinking and contributed to conversations leading to how it could be carried around to the other corners of our state, beyond the comfort of a theatre and into the thinking of all other ‘common’ mass. If inspired, one mind is enough. I was told. A big congratulation to the team of Manipuri Film Development Society and all the associates who made the weeklong event a success.