Abok pishak - the veteran artiste’s 94 years long journey in acting art

Despite her growing age and weakening body, her passion for acting in films never gets exhausted.  How strong for her enthusiasm for the art of acting is that she can even ignore everything including her personal problems or ailments whenever somebody starts talking to her bout film shooting. She is none other than Lourembam Pishak Devi, a 94 years old veteran artiste, the grand old woman who still relentlessly contributes her part in Manipuri feature films.  

Popularly known as Abok Pishak, Laishram Ningol Lourembam Ongbi Pisak Devi wife of late Lourembam Ibotombi hailing from Wangkhei Prna Rajbari, Imphal east is one of the living senior most veteran Manipuri film artiste who still contributes her role towards promoting Manipuri films actively despite her growing  age. In the journey of Manipuri film, although many artistes have got retired while many others passed way with the swift changing of time, Abok Pishak who is highly acclaimed for her role of a mother or elderly grandmother in film, is relentlessly her role in Manipuris films.

Since my early days, Acting becomes my passion of life. My passion for acting never gets exhausted that I still feel to act in films till my last breath, said the 94 years old veteran artiste, said Abok Pishak while talking to Manipur Times in a recent interview.

Manipuri Celluloid and digital films Abok Pishak acted:-

 The 94 years old veteran film artiste had acted in several Manipuri celluloid and digital cinemas . She acted in Manipuri celluloid films including Mayophygi Macha, Aroiba Natte, Thawanmichakna Kenkhrabada, Amambasu Anganbani, Yenning Amasung Likla. Among the digital films in which she acted include Thengmallabar radhamanbi, Reporter, Chang si Chang, Eisu Mini, Ngamloi Eidi Kainaba, Shakthibi Tampha, Star, Praligi Meiri, Ei Amuk Hallakhini, Loktak Patki Thoibi, Panthungi Wangma, Makar, Khongpham Ama soibada, Hiyang Athouba, Nangna Mama Oibiyu etc.

Apart from films, she acted in many documentary films, Dramas and Tele films to her credit. She acted in the documentary films ‘Ras Lila’, Laibakthibi’, Mangsatagi Mang’ Changyeng Amada Mamado Angaobido and in the Tele plays of DDK Imphal entitled ‘Changyengduda’, ‘Dakhinagi natte’.

Her Yester-year journey :-

Born to Laishram Julon Singh and Chandani Devi as the youngest among three daughters on November 21, 1923, she started her acting career from her tender age of seven when she for the first time acted the charater of Kusha in a drama ‘Lava Kusha’ which was exhibited at Keishamthong Moirang Ningthou Leirak regarding the birth anniversary of Manipur King Churachand Maharaj. Her grandfather Laishram  Ibungoton was the man behind her acting career in Theatre, Dramas, Music and dance.  Being the artiste of Meetei Chanu Lila Party, a party exclusively of female artiste, she also acted in many Shumang Lila plays like Pravas Khand, Manbhajan, Muruli Horon, Kalanka Bhajan, Manipur Phongba etc exhibited in different parts of the state. They played the shumang Lila lays under the guidance of Chongtham Ningthemjao, Kalachand Shastri, Tongbram Khoimu.

After marriage, I had to leave my acting career for many years due to intervention from y husband. I felt so emotional. It is one of the inconveniences most female artistes use to face in their career.  The opportunity to come back in my acting career came to me late at my 60 years of age only when my husband relented to the pressures of MK Binodini and Khuraijam Amubisana. Thengmallabara Radhamanbi of Ningthouja Lancha was the first feature film in which I got the chance of acting.

 The veteran artiste began her acting career with a full theatre background. The dramas in which she acted include Ramayan whwerein she took the character of Kusha, Bhakta Raja (role of Jamuna), Beigyachandra (role of Kuranga Nayani and Laishrabi), Mainu Pemcha (role of Pemcha), Urirei Madhabi (Madhabi and Thambalsana), Nal Damayanti (role of Damayanti), Shahajahan (supporting actress) and Krishna Lila (Shakhi).

Achievement in Art :-

Abok pishak who is an AIR Imphal Approved dramatist and Monoharsai Singer was awarded special jury Award for her role of a tribal elderly woman in the Manipuri feature film ‘Mayophygi Macha’, certificate of honour during the celebration of 25 years of Manipuri cinema organized by Manipur Film Development Corporation, Special Jury Mention Award in the Festival of Manipuri Cinema 2007, Mother of Manipuri film title by PAFINLA Foudation, Natya bhusan conferred by Manipuri Sahitya Parishad. Film Academy Manipur also awarded her the prestigious Life Time Achievement Award in recognition of her relentless contribution in the field of Art.

Present Life:-

She now spends her life in the worship of Shri Shri Ramji Prabhu at Wangkhei Ningthem Pukhri Mapal and being the Guru of Sana Pala of Shri Shri Ramji Prabhu at Wangkhei, she is teaching many disciples in the art form.   

Lamenting on the deteriorating trend in morality and discipline among the Manipuri woman, she said,” Manipuri society have witnessed a great change in morality, discipline and dress among the Meetei woman nowadays with the tune of time. Many girls are seen wearing pants ignoring traditional fabric Phanek while most married woman lacking in discipline and defying the social costume prevailed in Meetei society for decades long. It is a costmary for all the married Meetei women to cover their heads with cloth locally called ‘Innaphi’ . Those women who were found not covering their heads with Innaphi cloth were punished during the time of King Churachand Maharaj. The changing trend in discipline and costumes in Manipur society we witness today will defile the age old tradition and the beauty of Meetei identity, maintained the veteran artiste.  

If an artiste dreams to achieve the goal he or she desires, working with great enthusiasm and dedication is a must. Otherwise, he will not achieve the goal he desires, she observed while appealing the younger artistes to work with full understanding of the value of art and respect for the seniors.



The making of Mary Kom- the film

A biopic on Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom, who is a five times World Boxing Champion and an Olympic medalist, will soon hit the screens next month on 5th September across the country. But how many knew MC Mary Kom or Mary Kom before the trailer featuring Priyanka Chopra was released months back. It took a Bollywood film with names such as Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Priyanka Chopra to grab attention of the entire nation. The film titled Mary Kom instantly garnered more than a million hits on its trailer since its release on YouTube.

Much has been written on the authenticity of the characters played by Priyanka Chopra as Mary Kom. Many even wrote on how actors hailing from the northeastern region should have been cast in the lead role.

That aside, this biopic will show Mary Kom as an Indian boxer who hails from Manipur’s Kangathei village and who fights all odds to be the champion she is today. Speaking to Manipur Times, Saiwyn Quadras who has written the screenplay of Mary Kom said that the challenge was not to make the film look like a documentary and yet to make it look as real as possible. He has written the film in a way that it showed the struggles she went through as a woman sportsperson who had to wade through opposition from her father, politics and eventually making a comeback after a long career break. 

Saiwyn has been writing for almost ten years now, initially for non-fiction television. It has been six years since he forayed into writing for films. Mary Kom is his maiden film and he considers himself fortunate and takes pride in the fact that he is part of making of the film Mary Kom.

Saiwyn has been following her story in the sports pages and the web, which later helped him write her story. “I have been following Mary Kom's exploits on the international stage for almost a decade now. I read about her victories in small corners of the sports section. I remember reading about how she struggled her way up to reach where she was and how her struggle was still ongoing,” adds Saiwyn. 

It occurred to him that despite Mary Kom’s achievements as a boxer, she is not really known in the country. And that’s when he started writing the script of the film in 2011 and took two years to complete. He approached Omung Kumar with Mary Kom’s story of her struggle and achievements. Omung who is making his directorial debut with it had not heard of Mary Kom before, but was amazed at the fact that a world champion boxer was not known in the country by majority of the Indians like him. The same year when he started writing the script, he arranged a meeting with Mary Kom with the help of her manager, Jimmy. She could hardly believe that a Bollywood film is going to be based on her life.

Saiwyn’s research for Mary Kom was done through content available online, newspaper archives, online videos, telephonic interactions and emails with Mary and Jimmy. What struck him first about Mary Kom was her appearance which was in contrast to her feisty self once in the ring. She was stylishly dressed and her affinity for nail-art, her girly nature and forthright and honest demeanour was what surprised Saiwyn. Mary Kom in her interactions with Saiwyn and Omung, was very honest and forthcoming when it came to the details of her life and became a significant input in the screenplay that Saiwyn was writing.

Ever since the trailer of Mary Kom was released, many raised doubts that Priyanka Chopra has no resemblance to Mary Kom’s ethnicity and this might make the film look unrealistic. Saiwyn has a different view on this. He says Mary Kom is an Indian first and this film will open the eyes of many Indians. He further says that Mary Kom’s home state is an Indian state. He says the aim of the film is to show her story to the world and concentrating on the ethnicity is not significant. According to him, the efforts made by everyone who are part of the film should not be belittled with speculations and Priyanka Chopra who plays Mary Kom has put in her best and has worked hard as much as she can.

Expectations are high and speculations are inevitable when the film is about an Indian woman sportsperson who has been through a lot of struggle and is now a World Champion. The biopic is also significant because she hails from the remote part of the country, a village of Manipur. We will see actors from Manipur and Assam portraying prominent roles in the film. Model and actor, Lin Laishram will be playing Mary Kom’s childhood friend and a boxer in the film. Other actors, like Rajni Basumatary and Kenny Basumatary also play key roles in the film. Will this help talented actors like them break the ethnic discrimination they face in the mainstream film and modeling industry? Mary Kom may also bridge the disconnect that exists between the Northeast and the rest of India. With just a week left before the film’s release, excitement is building up in the entertainment sector. The unfortunate part is that the film that is based on a woman sportsperson from Manipur will not be released here. We still do not know if the underground organizations in the state will make an exception and allow the film to be released.


Indira Akoijam freelances with Manipur Times and is currently working with a media research house in New Delhi. For feedback, write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

‘Chingda Satpi’ Manipuri folk on a jet plane

“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.



Junichi Kajioka – Japanese Actor Director Love for Manipur

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.”

A Date with Acting Queen Tonthoingambi Leishangthem

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'


Emerging Filmmaker Sonia Nepram Walks the Talk


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) 

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