Imphal: In Manipur, away from the shadow of the gun there's another reality - a world of cinema, low budget films and gritty film-making. Only 13 films old, Leishangthem Tonthoi is the rising star of Manipuri cinema. This year, Tonthoi received the Rajat Kamal award for Best Supporting Actress at the 59th National Film Awards.
"We focus on the aesthetic value. Even I focus on the aesthetic value. We don't differentiate between high and low-budget films but aesthetic value," Tonthoi said.
Film shoots are increasing across the state. The state is slowly but surely putting itself on the Indian cinema map through its low budget films.
Acclaimed documentary filmmakers Bachaspatimayum Sunzu and Bona Mesihnam are working hard towards inexpensive, democratic products. Sunzu's 'AFSPA 1958' shook India and Mesihnam's powerful documentary 'Real' on HIV postive victims is at the archives of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Bachaspatimayum Sunzu said, "We have had a long history of story-telling behind us and it's only natural that we progress to new medium."
In 1972, the year of its statehood, Manipur got its first film screened at Imphal's cinema houses. But by 1999, underground outfit Revolutionary People's Front banned Bollywood films to prevent cultural invasion.
"The ban was a boost because people started to make local films. At that time people were making 70 to 80 films a year," Sunzu said.
Imphal's cityscape is dotted with film posters. Ignoring bans, almost zero electricity, violence and the shadow of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, every day some film-starved Manipuri picks up a film CD from the streets or ventures out to the crumbling cinema houses. With its young star cast, Manipur is determined to script its own story for the silver screen.