“In this globalised world, the indigenous people of the northeast India have become a race of receivers. Look at the technology around us, our dress, lifestyle, our education; everything has been imported from the outside world. If you ask what is our contribution to the outside world? There is nothing”. 

Propelled  by this thought process; the award winning filmmaker Oinam Doren is now on his latest mission to produce a music CD album and a DVD by the budding young talented Manipuri folk artiste Mangka Mayanglambam titled “Chingda satpi” which he plans to release in the month of August this year. The limited edition music CD will comprise of 8 folk songs and 2 contemporary versions of two selected folk songs fuse with guitars, drums and bass. The DVD will contain a music video and a short film.

“A huge amount of money is required for this project.  And investment is a huge risk as piracy has collapsed the music market. So I decided to raise funds through pre-order of the CDs & DVDs. I am grateful that some people have donated generously and I am planning to acknowledge their names in the creatively designed multi-folder CD/DVD cover.”

Doren also reiterates that it is not a money making venture. “When I was growing up as an adolescent, I was looking for role models, someone I could identify with and I found them in the form of rock stars all around me in MTV, magazines and music cassettes that were all over the place. So I grew up trying to imitate them whose lifestyles were quite alien to my culture or context. In Mangka I see the talent and personality to be our next culture icon, someone our new generation can identify with and get inspired”. The Manipur society is filled with talented artists but they remain and perished in the local domain as none of them has the communication or marketing skills.  According to Doren, he doesn’t want artist like Mangka to perish in Imphal valley like the flower ‘ingellei’ growing in the hills that remain unnoticed. He wants her to be our cultural ambassador around the world. “I have some experience with how the national and international music concerts and performances function. A good quality music CD, a slick music video and an artist website is a good starting point. From there, very smart networking and marketing to the right people can put her on a jet plane”.

 Ourvillage Films, the Company founded by Oinam Doren that is doing the production of the ‘chingda satpi’ music project was established in 2008 with the objectives of making local films for an international audience. In that same year, he could win development support from Goteborg International film festival, Sweden for a feature film project out of hundreds of applications worldwide. At present, it is working on a number of major projects that are in various stages of production. The films produced by Doren under the company are listed in IMDB, screened in a number of film festivals worldwide, won awards and is being distributed by the Times Group.  The DVDs are available in all leading DVD stores across the country and online shopping sites like Flipkart, Amazon, Times shopping etc. He is also the Winner of the National award, the highest filmmaking award in India given by the President.  

Doren also writes on contemporary music, cinema for magazines and is invited regularly to conferences and seminars across the country to deliver on independent filmmaking and indigenous music.

Any individual who wish to pre-order or contribute to the ‘Chingda satpi’ music project can do so by writing to him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For individuals in India donating Rs.500 will be presented one CD+DVD while Rs.1000 donor will be offered two CDs+two DVDs. Three CDs+three DVDs with an autograph by the artiste will be offered to Rs.1500 donors. Individuals or organisation that contributes more than Rs.3000 will be honoured with their names in the CD+DVD multi folder cover in addition to the gifts.

It is very difficult to find a folk music CD in the market while CDs for Manipuri modern songs, Bollywood and western rock/pop are easily available. In this context, Doren shares with us his woes.  “Recently, two filmmakers from England came to Manipur to shoot a film on the world boxing champ Mary Kom. I wasn’t happy with some New York filmmakers who used bhangra music, tabla and sitar on a base ball film set in Manipur.  So one evening, I told these London filmmakers of the musical crime the New York filmmakers committed and they should not repeat it. They demanded to give some music CDs to sample the local folk songs and music. But none were available in the market.  So I took them to oja Mangangsana, the artistic director of Laihui. A contract was made and some music delivered as score for the film”.

In order to nurture our rich cultural heritage, we need to cultivate more cultural icons in our society.  We are exposed to our folk music only during festivals which happens once or twice in a year while our younger generation are exposed to other alien music and culture everyday through television, music and movies. If we have to lure back this future generation to our culture and identity, we have to flood our media and the market with much stylised local cultural content.  They may even find its way to the international market just as the American music industry has done here. This are some of the reflections Doren made to me about his initiative to produce such a music project ‘chingda satpi’.

I walked away with the thought lingering in my head that any art work produced with quality will surely be able to spot a niche in the international market just as the Korean music oppa Gangnam style that became famous globally. Can ‘chingda satpi’ take our folk music on a jet plane is a query time will tell.



I will do further editing of my short film Imphal 1944 and screen it in Japan with Japanese subtitle around October this year in a commemoration ceremony for World War 2 reconciliation. I am visiting Japan with the Burma Campaign Society in October.

Junichi uses symbols and relics in his short film to represent the reconciliation process. The handkerchief which a Japanese war survivor Japanese returns to another survivor in the United Kingdom means a lot.

He uses symbol and lyrics. It shows the humane side of the Japanese soldier who overhears the story of the handkerchief which an allied soldier from London has with him. Many years he travels to England and tries to give back the handkerchief to the soldier’s friend. The handkerchief was given to the soldier by his beloved before he set out for war as a soldier. The Japanese soldier has fulfilled something by giving back the handkerchief which is a symbol for his reconciliation work.

The friend who receives the handkerchief after 70 years gives the handkerchief back to the Japanese soldier in return which mark the beginning of his own path of reconciliation.

It is significant that both Japanese and British ex-soldiers are intent on reconciliation.

It is a fictional film inspired by Masao Hirakubo a Japanese War veteran who survived the Second World War and dedicated his life to reconciliation.

Making of Imphal 1944

Junichi took 6 full days to shoot the film. From pre-production to post production it took him four months to produce the short film which he will now be reworking with Japanese subtitles and a final editing touch.

Imphal 1944 is the first directorial short film of Junichi.

The film was shot in London. His team members included 10 actors, most of whom offered their services for free. The make-up artists and post-producton music were also paid, while the rest of the team including crew volunteered for this film.

“I had to find a new make-up artist for the very next day as one left unexpectedly and I had to find a new one immediately. For me every day was a struggle. Three hours of makeup was needed as I was playing an old man character in the film” says Junichi.

He uses roses, cherry blossom and lillies to represent England, Japan and Imphal respectively in his movie.

“I completed the short film in a very short period of time in order to screen it at the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Imphal.”

Imphal 1944 was shot with a very limited budget. The movie is 30 minutes in length. “The main thing I could ensure that the film carries an important message of peace and reconciliation. It was interesting to see how I could do this with such limited resources,” Junich explained frankly. “I need support for making a full length version of the film.”

Dreaming of shooting a feature film on world war two at Imphal:

He wants to imbue the full length film with the rich culture of all three nationalities portrayed in the film. “Although the film will need to show the reality of the battle of Imphal”, says Junichi, “it will also show human values, and eventually a way forward from the tragedies of war.”

Junichi is keen to shoot the war time scenes in Manipur and hopes that the film can show the beauty of the area as well as the horrors of war. He also expressed that his film could be a starting point for better tourism for Manipur. “When people who see the film learn some of this ‘forgotten war’ they will hopefully want to learn more and start to trace the locations and places which are currently unknown to them. Film is a good medium for people to discover more stories”.

Junichi Kajioka’s career in films.

“I started acting in 1988 in Tokyo.  After seven years, I tried to find a new scene and went to drama school in China and then moved to the United Kingdom. Now I am trying to discover myself in Manipur! It’s been a short time here so far but has influenced me a lot. I have been acting for 25 years but now I have started directing to express my own artistic side

Being an actor is a small part of the participation in a film, but being a director allows a much greater scale of input. I am quite satisfied with my new career direction of being both an actor and a director. I have lots of ideas, and feel I can do a lot more!

My first drama film is a small budget film. I play around with two Japanese, two British people and some sound effects. If the budget is bigger we can create so  much more. I want very much to engage people in our recent history and help open up inquisitive debate. Young people  in particular would benefit a lot from learning about our past.

So far Junichi Kajioka has acted in more than 46 projects.

Most interesting role so far – “I have to say Imphal 1944. That was interesting!

I got connected to Manipur through the Burma campaign society. Akiko the chairperson of the society lent me a lot of books to read. One of the books was written by Masao Hirakubo. Akiko contacted Rajeshwor a member of the Burma campaign society in Manipur who was a very valuable local contact.”

His love for Manipur

“I came here and connected with Manipuri people. I know the Manipuri people like Japanese and found out how they interacted with Japanese soldiers during the war time. This was a new discovery for me and that interested me greatly. I started thinking how to connect all things together in stories. ‘My Japanese Niece’ a film I signed up to with Mohen Naorem, a filmmaker in Manipur, will hopefully be made some time soon, but in the meantime I decided to make my own film and I asked Rajeshwor for permission to show the film during the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Impham. That was what spurred me on to complete the film in such a short time. I think the 30 minute version was right for this Anniversary commemoration but I will now be editing a shorter version which is more suited to other international audiences.”

Personal life

I left Japan when I was 25 years old in 1995. For three and half year I was in China and then moved to London, alhough I know have very fond feelings also for Manipur.

“I eat the pholla a local food here yesterday and it’s so  tasty!” says Junichi.


“ – making films is my new hobby, you have to be so dedicated and determined otherwise you can’t make a proper film.

But at present I am needing to do a lot of my own publicity, keeping everyone up to date with Imphal 1944 through social media sites like Facebook. It’s helping me get a lot of support for my film-making.”


“– I would like to collaborate with the local film makers, DOPs, make-up artists and will need to rely on them a lot.  Anyone interested in the project is welcome to get in touch.

I’d be interested in connecting with local singers and musicians so that the background music can be authentic and relate to regional Meitei songs.”

Junichi also wishes to bring in some film makers from England and other parts of the world and organize film festivals in Manipur. Hopefully then they will go back home and spread the word about Manipur. “Film makers from all over the world come and make films here!”

Tour and travels in Manipur

While Junichi was in Imphal he visited Loktak Lake, Ima Keithel, INA Museum and Kangla. He planted some flowers at Ima Keithel and planted trees at Heingang supporting Blooming Manipur in their cause for a green environment.   “It takes time for these plants to grow but it’s way of making a direct contribution to the environment and in time we will have more and more blossoms growing in Manipur.”

Since her childhood she wishes to enter into the film world. Following her dreams, she first tried to prove her mettle as an actress by acting in a film in a supporting role. But she could not perform as she thought. In fact, her first break in a film disheartened and disappointed her upto a large extent. At times, she even thought of giving a full stop to her pursuit of stardom. On the other hand, this self-depreciation and self-dejection later turned out to be a blessing in disguise and a perfect new beginning in her acting career. As it made her to put in extra efforts and time, she now easily surpasses others and now Tonthoingambi Leishangthem requires no introduction in the Manipur film industry.

Hailing from Chingkhu of Imphal East district, Tonthoi is not only a reigning star but also a proud daughter of Manipur who brought home laurels including the prestigious Silver Lotus Award (National Film Awards for Best Supporting Actress). Among others from different states, she is a new figure, who contributes to validate the vivacious existence and richness of regional language cinema at the national and international arena and its audience.

Today, cine audience feel that her acting speaks louder than dialogues. The character, the role, she has played and enacted in several Manipuri films are so exceptional, distinctive and well-accorded with the situations. Everybody is remembering her performance in Thoicha, Yaiphabee, Leipaklei and national award winning film Phijigee Mani.

While having a friendly tête-à-tête with the Manipur Times at her place, she said giggly, "As a child, I loved singing and dancing. And whenever I played with my friends, I always like posing like a star”.

Tonthoi's childhood days were filled with lots of acting, dancing and singing. She dreamt of performing like those imaginations which she got from watching TV and wished a lot that if she could become a star like them. But it never happened till 2006 when she became the winner of Dawn 2006. The talent hunt show was organised by Bright Films. She said, "For me, Dawn 2006 was a gateway for my entrance into the film world". She added, "I don't know what I should say, whether it was a God's grace or my fate, but indeed it was merely like my dream coming true, it provided me a platform".

Tonthoi made her first appearance in silver screen as a supporting-actress in Nangna Thawaini, wherein she played the role of the main male protagonist’s sister. After that she went on acting in films one after another. She has acted in more than 20 Manipuri films now. Tonthoi is currently spending her time at the sets of director Pari Khuman’s film, Oktabi Natte. Tonthoi is portraying the role of a brave heart woman, who shoulders the heavy weight of economic burden of her family.

Lovingly known as Echantombi in her home, 26-year-old Tonthoi is a recipient of National Film Awardsfrom the Directorate of Film Festivals, India for 'Best Supporting Actress' (at 59th National Film Festival, 2011) for the Manipuri feature-film Phijigee Mani (directed by O Gautam). She also played the lead role of the film Leipaklei, directed by the renowned veteran film maker Aribam Syam Sharma. The film has also won the prestigious National Award for the Best Manipuri Film at the 60th National Film Festival 2012. Leipaklei was screened at Jeonju International Film Festival that was held at Jeonju, South Korea, besides other film festival held in India.

Facing the Real-life

Tonthoi's stardom was not achieved overnight. She has braved many unpleasant and complex situations to get hold of the current status. Like ‘Leipaklei’ flower, she struggled a lot to blossom as a popular actress in the Manipuri film industry. Even her family, especially her mother resisted her passion to act in films.


She said, "My first film was totally against my mother’s will." She added, "She wanted me to go for the medical profession".And her other family members also pressed her to go to Pune, where her elders siblings were staying, to make a try in the medical entrance and pursue her graduation in Science along with it.

 It was a dilemma to her, whether to follow her family’s pressure or to follow her dream. But Thonthoi decided what her heart told her. She admitted herself in DM College of Commerce in Imphal. She herself paid the admission fees with the amount she saved in her piggy bank.

She said, "I knew that there's less possibility to get admission in the Commerce stream in a college outside the state as the cut-off marks were so high. So, I opted for this stream so that I can stay here and go after my passion"

Tonthoi's first film left her a bitter experience and disappointed her. She said, "I neither had any formal training on acting from an institute at that time nor I knew the film language and camera vocabulary. So, I was compelled to think that I would not be able to do it".

Tonthoi's hope began to spring when the director of her first film approached her for a lead role in Sakhenba Bhoot.But, she requested the director to give her some time to learn and get trained in the role. It was Bishwamitra, one among the phenomenon filmmakers from the state, where he liberally gave his affirmative response by stating, "It Okay! Take your time". Then Tonthoi hit the road towards the various learning avenues along with her Graduation and a diploma course in dance at JN Manipur Dance Academy.

After acting in some other films, she got a turning point in her career with the release of horror film Thoicha. Sheportrayedthe lead role doing a hard act to follow by enacting as a maiden permeated by a supernatural spirit scaring her audience with paranormal activities. She stated, "Many suggested me to think in-depth before I made my decision to act in the film. Even some persons suggested me to drop the offer because the role wasn't a normal one". She then maintained, "But my heart told me that I should go for it, and later it turned out to be a good turning point". The film earned runaway success and she also earned a good name and her popularity gained.





Tonthoi has earned lot of accolades and awards in her chosen field. In 2010 she got Special Mentioned Awards in the State film festival for a bi-lingual film called Paokhum, directed by Bishwamitra Kwairakpam. She is also the winner of the Best Supporting Actress award in state film festival for Thasi Thanau, directed by Epu. And again in 2012, Film Academy Manipur declared her as the Actress of the Year.


Tonthoi is the youngest among five siblings, and she lives with her parents at Chingkhu of Imphal East district, Manipur. She is now a B Com Graduate. And, the times is an Indian summer for her, besides fame and fortune she has earned from her dedication in acting, the State Government is going to offer her a Government job, as a part of recognition and honouring those film personnel who brought laurels home.  She is one among the list from state film personnel, where the state cabinet decided to offer jobs. 

Photo Courtesy: 'Leipaklei and Crew'



A Manipuri documentary film “Gun and a God”, by a young filmmaker Sonia Nepram, projects the issue of the status of women in Manipur. This film won the Jury’s Choice Award at the prestigious Mumbai Women’s International Film Festival (MWIFF) held in October this year.

Behind the Scene

Sonia Nepram was born and brought up at Thongju, Imphal East in a humble yet huge family. She is presently residing at Uripok. She studied at Little Flower School and Human Resource Development (HRD) Academy in Imphal. She completed her graduation and later, Masters in Mass Communication from Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi. Since then, she has been working on films, based on varying themes such as gender issues, survival of women in a patriarchal society and against domestic violence, the negative effects of law and order and so on.

Previously, Sonia had received special awards for her student film “Limited Edition” at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. The film also won a Silver award at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and bagged the second prize in the Students’ International Film Festival held in Indraprastha College, New Delhi. This film was screened in the Jeevika Asia Livelihood Film Festival, 2010. The young emerging filmmaker had also recently participated in the Film Appreciation Course in Pune, which was jointly organized by the Film and Television Institute of India and National Film Archive of India. She also dabbles in still photography.

Sonia has been exposed to documentary films on different cultures and traditions. The new wave of documentary filmmaking has been a source of her inspiration.


The Gun, the God and the Film

Back home in a local daily, Sonia came across an article — about Purnima, a former insurgent from Manipur, born to a mentally unfit mother and an unknown father. This triggered the inception stage of her acclaimed film, “Gun and a God”.

It was very difficult for Sonia to convince her subject to be a part of this film. It took her almost a year, and she had to put in tremendous courage to go ahead with such a subject and do justice to it simultaneously. It was very difficult to find crew members for her production in Manipur. Then, she consulted her cousins, was introduced to Akee Sorokhaibam and together, they formed a small crew for the project.

The best moment during the production of the film was when Sonia went to meet Purnima’s mother, Kunjeshori, while the latter was under treatment. This film has not been just a documentary — but had gone beyond control — it had no script or dialogue. It seemed as if the project was documenting the real things, much more than making a film. Nobody could guess what would happen the next second.

The film shows the struggle of a solitary, forbidden and betrayed woman. Sonia contends that the women of Manipur have been glorified for their movements against all kinds of injustice. Yet, prejudices rule the roost. Her films can be an eye-opener for the womenfolk.

The film was released on YouTube to get more exposure. The appreciation and audience response have been beyond her expectation, she adds.

During the project, she encountered shortcomings during post production. The subject and the story were so strong and touching that she did not want to cut out any part of the interview footage. Another challenge was being a woman filmmaker in Manipur. For instance, she had to convince her mother when she had to work at night.

Sometimes they went beyond the scheduled time so as to cover the important clips and to grasp the facts. They even carried power generator to interview spots to overcome the power cuts. Her mother had figured out the budget of the film. She has no commercial motives or financial benefits from the film. What Sonia wanted was only the audience response.

The best part of the project was her involvement in all the stages from inception to promotion. She was involved in all the pre- and post-production activities, from framing the camera and light, to transportation. This 31-minute long, One Inch Production film took one year to complete and the post production was completed at the Heima! Films.

The Way Ahead

Sonia Nepram is currently working on her second film, based on Manipuri Fanek.

She admits she loves to work on women’s issues in Manipur. She welcomes all kinds of suggestions and feedbacks. She is as well closely associated with women’s organizations in Manipur. She aspires to create more awareness and bring about a change in attitude and behavior of people towards women.


In her words, “Our society is very rigid towards women. However, I have to fight against all odds”.

Original Podcast is available at by MONICA INGUDAM  (Episode-38) 

Source : Finding The Voices

Bhumenjoy, the emerging animation filmmaker from Khundrakpam, Imphal has been sharing his ups and downs of life and how he remained glued to multimedia and took up the challenging job of making Keibu-Kei-Oiba, the first Manipuri animation film based on a popular folktale. This story has been dwelling in the folklore of Manipur since olden days.

No Child’s Play

The successful production of the film was the outcome of team work of five likeminded persons. The project of making an animation film was not a child’s play although the film basically focused on children, he recounted. Manipur is a place of different shortcomings and the team had to produce a standard film with limited softwares and hardwares, which were available in hand at that time. Bhumenjoy put up the proposal on the desk before his companions –Ailan,  Sirish, Dominic and Satyen, who were his work-mates and close friends. They discussed in detail of the project. The company of five eventually stuck to the final resolution wherein Bhumenjoy took the major initiative while his friends were ready to help him financially. He started the process of making the film at the cost of his job in 2007.

The maiden step of Bhumenjoy was a big challenge of making an 84-minute animated film. He already had the experience of making short commercials and short films of few seconds and few minutes. But this time the whole project was based on his knowledge, and the production duration went beyond the expected time. Film production needs great involvement of many professionals  – scriptwriter, music composer and dialogue writer etc, and above that, making an animation film need drawings, animation, voice-over etc. Bhumenjoy recruited three students from Manipur, and brought them to Pune to accompany him in drawings. The students were trained for 2-3 months and made them learn computer and its applications with the vision that it might be an initial step for their career in multimedia. The team put in a lot of effort in making the movie consulting and researching many things so that it could be articulated well in terms of music and dialogue.

Challenges on Bhumenjoy’s Way

The first obstacle in this project was the remaking of storyline. There was no written volume of Keibu-Kei-Oiba’s story. Bhumenjoy had to develop the story of the film from the folktale. It needed thorough understanding and great efforts in creating the characters to visualize the tale within a storyline. The story was then reproduced in drawings. So he needed a strong script which could bring lives to the characters drawn either on the paper or in the computer. He did research on every single detail that came up in the story. The interesting thing in his project was that no video-camera was used in making the whole film. The characters and scenes were drawn in different camera angles, which was really exhausting physically and psychologically, he added.

Keibu-Kei-Oiba was a unique character of a human-tiger. And this half-man-half-tiger creature had to deliver dialogue in the film. The facial structure was made a little bit contorted from the real tiger to adjust with human voice and the action of speaking during the process of digitalization. And it came as a big challenge to Bhumenjoy in visualizing the characters of Keibu-Kei-Oiba, the conjoined character of a man and a beast. The production team did use faded colours while drawing to fiddle with the story.

Creation of Thabaton’s Character

Creation of seven brothers and the youngest innocent pretty sister, Thabaton was another challenge. In the story, Thabaton’s age must be around 16 to 20 years old and accordingly the eldest brother must be 30 or so and a bachelor too. It was hard to develop the facial and physical structures of seven different brothers and a sister of a single family within the age range of 10 to 14 years. Balancing the characters and creating look-alike brothers and sister cost lots of labour, he recounted. Developing Thabaton’s character took lots of time comparing to others as Bhumenjoy was not an expert in drawing women’s portrait. He took references from other pictures and photos of women, kept on trying by keeping in his mind about her hairstyle, eye, height, dress and all until he got the final innocent face of Thabaton.

Artiste’s Contribution

Regarding background music, Sori Senjam had to work so hard to develop a suitable composition and he faced tough time in engaging musicians as the law and order was too bad at that time in Manipur. At last, he came out with the perfect tunes and beats. With regards to dialogues, Bhumenjoy consulted renowned Manipuri ethnic scholar, Hemochandra alias Khaba. In response to it, Khaba rebuilt the long gone words, traditional style of speaking as well the nature of expression as a part of Bhumenjoy’s research work. The voice over artistes who joined the team with heart and soul were popular artistes, Bishwamittra, Kalpana, and Joseph for the characters like Keibu-Kei-Oiba, Thabaton and the thief and crow respectively. Joseph added a hilarious dialogue on his own during dubbing – “Eikhoi-na khara singba huranba oibagee khut-ta teijabei wani, apangba huran-ba sing-ga oiradi masi khong-na net-ladouni. Contributions from other artistes from drama and theatre were also remarkable. The voice over of the old grandmother was not of an old woman, Bhumenjoy recounted. The voice over artistes needed to see the animated scenes to harmonize with the pictures, and animation needed sound clips to build up the facial expression. In such circumstances, Bhumenjoy made the artistes visualize the picture of the situation and explained it precisely to them. Actually, voice recording preceded animated visuals production and the engagement of drama and theatre artistes held a great advantage.


Bishwamittra’s fine expression of both human and animal instincts effect on eating fruit and vegetable was really great, Bhumenjoy added. The paramount efforts of production group were less known to the audience but their appreciation, children’s interest and enjoyment when they watched the film were much above all.

Preserving folktales in Visual Medium

Bhumenjoy’s idea of production of Keibu-Kei-Oiba in animated film was to preserve the nearly extinct folktales. “The traditional forms of entertainment, which imbibe moral values, like in the short sequence in “Kekoo Lotpi”, and the narration of folktales by our grandparents as bed-time stories are vanishing from our minds replacing gradually by the taste of the new media. So, I prefer to preserve the folk tales by remaking and presenting it in the visual medium which will remain forever and ever, Bhumenjoy said.

Original Podcast is available at by MONICA INGUDAM  (Episode-37) 



His life was full of hardships and he used to struggle hard for survival. At the very young age, he began earning for his family and education by working as a day labourer in the field. However, Rakesh Naorem has not only braved all those odds in life but also mould himself into a promising writer-film producer.

33-year-old Rakesh Naorem, hailing from Tentha Khongbal, Thoubal district, is the youngest son among his five siblings.  Since his father could not look after the family properly, they were mainly brought up by their mother Naorem Ongbi Borni with her meagre income earned from selling fish. His mother used to catch fish from Ikop Lake and sold it at Wangjing Bazar.

When he was young, their family had enough property and a vast paddy field. However, almost all their family estate was sold out due to extreme poverty. Now, the family does not possess even a piece of paddy field, Rakesh revealed while talking to Manipur Times.

Rakesh’s Films

In the journey of his film career, Rakesh Naorem has so far produced four non-feature films under the banner of Ipak Films - Kathokpagi Shaklon(documentary film released on 20 January, 2009), Sageigi Sanarei (short film released on June 6, 2009), Tollabashingi Tollen (documentary film released on June 6, 2009), Numit Mana Tadringei (short Film released on September 27, 2009) and three feature films - Shakhenbi Iteima (released on June 5, 2012), Phongdoknadringei (released on  January 7, 2013), Ngaina Ngaina (released on May 13, 2013).

At present, three Manipuri feature films - Leiyisigi Wangmada, Thamoida Kiramba Kishi and Eegi Khongul are under process for release before January, 2014.

Rakesh’s Past Life

Sharing the hardship days of his past life, he said, “There were two staff namely Iche Premila from Khurai and Iche Abe from Singjamei. The duo used to collect bulk quantities of fruits like Heikru (Amla) and Heitup from Pallel and Chandel town. They prepared packaged pickles from the fruits and sold them to me at Rs8 per dozen. Afterwards, the said packaged pickles are sold to the shops of Kakching Keithel, Wabagai Lamkhai, Langmeidong, Sekmaijin Thongkhong, Uchiwa Lamkhai, Mayang Imphal and Shamurou Bazar by riding a bicycle. In fact, it was big struggle for me for survival. I have never told these hardships of life even to my family”.

Moreover, he along with his friend Milan from Kakching, on every Sundays, went to various nook and corner of Bamon Leikai, Singjamei areas to sell household items such as pan, gas lighter, belt, spoon as company salesmen.

He worked as a collector of a private bank, Manipur Financial Institute, for some time as well. The bank paid him Rs350 a month. In 1999, he went here and there as a private tutor by staying at Kakching.

Narrating a tragic story of his life, Rakesh said, “We lived in a thatched house. A tall Yongchak tree was there at the backside of our house. One day, a violent cyclone uprooted the tree and fell on our house. My brothers and sisters escaped unhurt luckily. The incident took place when my mother went to market and father was out of station for earning. My family, being unable to build a new house, had to take shelter at the Mamang Sanggoi (extended outhouse) of Pabung  Iboyai. Now all my sisters and brothers have got married. I am also married and blessed with two daughters namely, Sinthoi and Athoibi”.

How Rakesh Started Writing

Before entering into filmmaking, Rakesh began his career as a writer. One day some organisers of Loktak Festival visited the private bank in which he was working for donation bringing some pamphlets. After reading the pamphlets, he wrote an article about the degrading condition of Loktak Lake. The article under the caption “Chaba Thaklaga Phee Mulliba Loktak Project” was sent to Sangai Express. The said newspaper published it widely which encouraged me more to write more and more articles afterwards. In course of time, Rakesh met many writers of Kakching such as Naorem Kalimohon, Pukhrambam Rajen, and Naorem, Gunadhar.

He joined Kakching based Chingkheihunba Khorjei Lup and Macha Chanu etc. After meeting with the members of these organisations, he was inspired to write more and more. Oja Shri Lekhak, who was the Advisor of the two organisations, guided the young writers.

Rakesh also learnt theatre under Kha Manipur Dramatic Union, Kakching under Theatre Gurus like Kalimohon and Utamkumar. In a play entitled Lakpa, he essayed the role of Biren. From 1999 to 2003, he did many works by staying at Kakching. He started contributing articles, short stories, poems etc for newspapers like Hueiyen Lanpao, Ireibak, Iramdam etc. He also presented many short stories and poems on Naharolgi Khonjel programme of All India Radio, Imphal. Basically, Kakching is the second home of Rakesh as his life has a close relation with the environment of Kakching.

Turning Point

Rakesh said, “A big turning point came in my life right from the month of March, 2003. This is the period during which all my brothers got married and began searching for better opportunities for their lives. I started earning as a private security guard under New Generation Career Consultant located at Canchipur, opposite to Manipur University main gate”.

Rakesh worked as a security guard at Sika Higher Secondary School and special regular English School, Nambol. He got Rs1,500 only as monthly salary from the job.

“Sitting on the chair at the school gate, I wrote many articles, short stories. In 2004, under the guidance of OC Meira from Lamlai, I joined Kangleipak Loinsillon Apunba Marup (KLAM), a writers’ group in Manipur. For the first time in my life, a short story book entitled Washaktugi Cheina was published under the guidance of K Sanahongba Mangang, president of KLAM. After this, Ekhenglakta Kangleipak (Sumang Kumei) was published in 2008”, recalled Rakesh.

Under the aegis of Patriotic Writers Forum, Manipur, Inamma (Radio play, 2009), The Shining Star (Biography of Laishram Nabakishore, 2009), Ningshinglubada Tripuragi Khongchat (2011) were published.

In 2008, he left the job of security guard as film director OC Meira suggested him to produce some films. He was afraid of the suggestion in view of his poor family background. After a deliberate discussion, a documentary film entitled Kathokpagi Shaklon based on the life of Padamashri Laishram Nabakishore was released on January 20, 2009 at MDU hall. For producing a Manipuri feature film, a producer normally invests Rs5 lakh to Rs10 lakh, Rakesh said.



Manipuri Film Industry

Regarding present trend of Manipuri film industry, Rakesh said, “The market of Manipuri film is limited that almost all the producers hardly get profit. With the number of cine goers in cinema halls is decreasing day by day and production of less number of quality films, the fate of Manipuri films is uncertain. While the fate of Manipuri films is uncertain, piracy culture has started making havoc to film production as well. The present revenue collection of Manipuri film producers is so less that the total expenditure of hiring charges of cinema halls and government taxes is higher than that of the revenue collected from screening a film in the cinema halls of Imphal. So far, film activists in Manipur hardly get facilities from Manipur Film Development Corporation (MFDC). When a producer releases a film in MFDC auditorium, the corporation charges a producer Rs35,000. For other programmes, it charges Rs17,000. MFDC does not permit a producer to use its equipment outside Manipur for shooting as well. Until and unless a film policy is implemented by the government, Manipuri film industry will not enjoy its due promotion. The growth of Manipuri film industry is slow due to the present market condition”.

“I dream to be one of the successful producers so that I can contribute more towards the development of Manipuri film industry.  We need to respect each other and work for building up a society of equals. Support from our people is a must for future survival of Manipuri cinema”, observed Rakesh.