By Bobby Wahengbam A paragraph in an article by critic Meghachandra Kongbam (Manipuri Cinema: Chingolnungda asum? Poknapham, 22nd December, 2014) haunts me. He quoted a newspaper item under the heading,
By Bobby Wahengbam
A paragraph in an article by critic Meghachandra Kongbam (Manipuri Cinema: Chingolnungda asum? Poknapham, 22nd December, 2014) haunts me. He quoted a newspaper item under the heading, `Impressive presence of NE filmmakers at IFFI 2014`. It intentionally teased the proud film makers in Manipur with the paragraph, `It may be mentioned that this year`™s IFFI has two Manipuri film makers as Jury members but not a single film or documentary made in Manipur could hit the National Panorama this year`. This paragraph forces me to have introspection into our film industry. Meghachandra also reminds us that there have been only two films that could win National Awards in the last decade. Even exclusive (quota) `The Best Regional Manipuri Film` category could not been catered by any of the 60 plus odd films that have been churned out every year. It`™s a big shame. On the other hand, some sections in the industry are walking tall with their head high with the impression that the industry is gaining momentum counting the growth quantitatively. As a matter of fact Manipuri film industry has been spreading its wings far and wide in the state. But the unfavourable situation mentioned above easily indicates that the growth is indeed horizontal without any vertical development. And nobody seems to be interested in the quality growth with the fact that only two films made entry for the panorama this year. As a matter of fact we are cut off from the rest of the world because `we, ourselves are the world`™. And many advocate it.
Hard work, determination and knowledge are the important ingredients that are required to achieve a desired goal. And the amount of homework and time taken is also proportionally equal to the level of the goal. The quality inclines as the desired goal becomes wider. For example, if one wants to be famous in one`™s leikai, one can do it soon by starting leikai social work, club activities and other leikai centric work. If one wants to be a National or an International figure, the home work is to be done accordingly. Sarita should work hard to be stronger physically, technically, mentally than the present world champion if she desires to be at the top. And it takes time and planning where Luck is secondary. Unfortunately, the passion for our film fraternity is seen to be restricted to the local scenario. So, home work is restricted to just competition among ourselves. Basically, one enters to a profession by choice or by having no alternative. If most of us belong to the latter category, then, it is crowding who assembled to make their ends`™ meet directly or indirectly and also for instant recognition. Those better positioned enjoyed mass appeal (local market) and earn greater. We are moving around in this bracketed plane. It is written in almost all the art and aesthetic books that `No mass culture have ever been high art`™. Sure, our film industry could provide livelihood to many but it does not provide room for quality production that can challenge the counterparts outside the state. Amazing as it may be there are good numbers of film professionals who have not seen any of Pabung Syam`™s films; forget about world cinema, film theories and academic research. What they need is Television Serials, South Indian flicks, Bollywood Commercial, Korean Serials and Music Albums to tune with the taste of the spoon feeding audience.
Satyajit Ray has catogorised two type of audience- the spoon feeding audience and those audiences who understand the nuances of film senses. Christian Metz compares film viewing of the earlier type as somnambulism, hallucination, and day dreaming. Here, the impression of realty is related to illusion. Our film makers are too busy to work in that plane and can`™t afford the luxury to experiment in the highly saturated production industry here as only the loud and dreamy could be heard by the audience. Surjakanta, noted film maker opined (Souvenir 2010, 3rd Ebudhou Film Creation), `Film making has suddenly become easily available profession. But we are neglecting aesthetics and techniques. We don`™t see any change in the quality though we can exploit so much today with the available facilities. The trend remains the same with same stories of family drama, romance, triangular conflicts and that too with the same artists.`
Artistes of the previous generation were luckier as general masses could appreciate their works of art. But now it is doubtful that a high piece of art will ever get recognition in today`™s highly disposable and consumerist society with the bombardments of so much information into our limited space. There is no room for research or rediscovery or relook in the ultra `no time`™ scenario. Noted critic Chidananda Das Gupta writes, ` The fact is that as consumerism grows, success is measured in harder material terms, and the intellectual is increasingly under pressure to accept that criterion`¦ mediocrity becomes the norm, and deviations from it have to be disguised`( Seeing is Believing, Penguin/Viking Books, 2008, p.144).
And for the dream merchants, knowing the tools, after effects and gimmicking software are dearer than the quest for intellectual films. Nobody is interested in no-audience films since it is not their scheme of things. Because they are enjoying patronage from wannabe producers (60 films per year, remember). If they are enjoying in their own space, let them be. They are not to be blamed. They know it clearly that the more they turn towards artistic expression the more they are distancing from the audience. Successful mainstream (we call it) film makers like Bishwamitra, Romi Meitei, Subash, Oken, Makhon Mani, Gautam could not enjoy the space they used to occupy in the box office after they had ventured into conscious film making.
Another important hurdle is the limited microscopic market which can`™t afford to payback hard cash deserved by the professionals. This limitation has made each and every one a day earner. So, the mind is always occupied for the stomach unlike our forefathers. Manipur is rich in art and culture because our forefathers had ample of time for such activities. After acquiring enough food grains working for only half a season, their minds were, thereby, explored to other activities. But now, with life becoming more and more materialistic, we are struggling for our basic necessities. And artistes, being the most underpaid, become the lowest denomination in our capitalist structure. Can you imagine that the most successful director in Manipur can`™t even earn a Government clerk salary?
Another drawback we can talk about is that no support is available for art films to grow. There are talents, as seen in the documentary and short film making, but they can`™t help it for want of finance and support. All their possessions have already been exhausted in preparation and home work to equip themselves artistically at par with the outside counterpart. In the process, the rich artistic heritage of the state could not be tapped properly. There is urgent need to create an atmosphere conducive to the growth of good cinema.
But tamo Megha and the elitist public should not get dishearten; they will get some good news in two years. Till then!
Read more / Original news source: http://kanglaonline.com/2014/12/growth-of-manipuri-cinema-horizontal/