Aribam Syam’s Manipuri classic flick ‘Ishanou’ retakes fest tours across globe


Source: DIPR

11/29/20233 min read

Imphal: Iconic Manipuri filmmaker Aribam Syam Sharma has stood tall as his magnum opus ‘Ishanou’, after three decades of its release, is travelling film festivals across continents once again in 4K avatar, retaining the poignant tale of love and loss steeped in Manipuri culture.

The Manipuri classic, which had its world premiere at Festival de Cannes in May this year at the Cannes Classic Section with a red carpet reception, has an impressive line-up of festivals.

Scheduled next month, the fiestas include Cinema Ritrovato Bolongo, Italy, The Heritage Film Festival, Berlin and Jio MAMI Mumbai, Ishanou will be screened at Festival des 3 Continents, Nantes, France and Singapore International Film Festival.

At Cannes, Ishanou rubbed shoulders with other world classic movies and played to full-house audience, even as Syam observed that his flick’s success was possible only because of the rich cultural heritage of Manipur.

“It’s the rich soil which gives us a unique cultural expression reflecting our identity. This very background has made the film possible,” the octogenarian filmmaker said.

The premiere at Cannes elicits a sense of déjà vu as the film had its earlier tour to the same festival way back in 1991, it got invited as official selection in “Un Certain Regard section.”

It is considered a proud moment for Indian cinema as Ishanou (1990) is the second film of the country to be bestowed the honour of Cannes Classic after Govindan Aravindan’s Malayali film Thampu (1978), following their restoration. Unfortunately, cine-lovers of Manipur particularly could not celebrate the cinematic fete due to the violence that has engulfed the whole of the state since May this year.

Doyen of Manipuri cinema, Syam still yearns to make more films, and he is responsible for putting Manipuri cinema in the global map. He has 33 non-fiction and 15 fiction films to his credit, which won multiple awards and travelled prestigious festivals the world over.

Syam continued that it is an honour to be listed among masters like Jean Luc Godard, Yasujiro Ozu, Alfred Hitchcock and the like in the Cannes Classic Section. “I would say my devotion to cinema is paid off, and I am happy that a film based on the culture of a small community has been able to reach such height”, he added.

The legendary filmmaker also pointed out that the 4K restoration has given a new lease of life to Ishanou. He expressed gratitude to the concerted effort of Film Heritage Foundation and Manipur State Film Development Society.

Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, founder of Film Heritage Foundation (FHF), when asked the reason behind choosing Ishanou for restoration said, “Indian cinema means the regional cinema. It may be Oriya, Telegu, Kannada, Malayali or Manipuri. They are the true gems of Indian cinema. But unfortunately they are over-shadowed by Bollywood. Our focus is to find regional cinema.”

Shivendra, who went on to point out that Syam is an embodiment of Manipuri culture , said “In the heart of his body of works he made humanistic stories premised on the culture of Manipur. His films are so poetic almost like an ancient scripture being told.” Ishanou is a reflection of life so beautifully told, he added.

The Manipur State Film Development Society (MSFDS) has also been instrumental in taking up the restoration work of Ishanou as a part of its film archival mission. Secretary of the society, Sunzu Bachaspatimayum said he is immensely proud of Ishanou’s achievement.

“This achievement holds deep significance as MSFDS led the endeavor to digitally preserve and restore ‘Ishanou’ at the prestigious restoration institute, L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy and Prasad Corporation Pvt. Ltd, Chennai. The film is a cornerstone of Manipur’s film legacy, encapsulating 50 years of Manipuri Cinema from 1972 to 2021”, he said.

The story, screenplay and costume design of the film is by the celebrated Manipuri writer, MK. Binodini Devi, cinematographed by Girish Padhiar, edited by Ujjal Nandy with Anouba Kiranmala, Kangabam Tomba, Manbi and Dhiren as the main cast.

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