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Manipuri cinema basks in Aribam glory

Imphal, Jan. 30: The Padmashree may have come to Aribam Syam Sharma a little late, but it has been a timely boost for the fledgling Manipuri film industry.

'People say the recognition (of my contributions to cinema) was delayed, but I believe film awards are the main recognition. Nevertheless, the Centre's decision to honour me with the Padmashree is recognition of the Manipuri film industry, the youngest in the country. This will encourage filmmakers of the state to make quality films,' the celebrated director said today.

Senior members of the film fraternity said Sharma should have been conferred the Padmashree in 1982, when he won the Grand Prix at the International Film Festival in Nantes, France, for Imagee Ningthem. Sharma is the first filmmaker from the Northeast to have won the award.

In 1991, Sharma's Ishanou (The Chosen One) was the toast of the Cannes Film Festival. Sangai: The Dancing Deer of Manipur won five prizes at the International Wildlife Film Festival in Montana, US. The London-based British Film Institute adjudged the same film as the Outstanding Film of the Year, 1989.

Apart from these international honours, Sharma has won 11 national awards ' for five feature and six non-feature films ' during the course of his glorious career. His Yelhou Jagoi (Dances of Lai Haraoba) will be the opening film in the Northeast Special Package ' comprising seven films ' for the ninth Mumbai International Film Festival, beginning February 3.

Though Sharma continues to be prolific, the rest of the Manipuri film industry is str-uggling to produce good films. 'Manipuri films are now regarded as cheap commercial cinema. Earlier, there was a fine balance between the commercial and the meaningful. But Manipuri filmmakers sto-pped making films for the big screen in 2002, sounding the death knell for cinema here,' Sharma said.

Since 2002, all Manipuri films have been shot in video format to cut down expenditure. Sharma believes video films should be allowed entry into the national film festival and the Indian Panorama section of all international festivals in the country.

'If video films are allowed to compete with full-length feature films, the future of the industry will be bright not only in Manipur but also in the rest of the Northeast,' the director said.

The filmmaker wrote to Union information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi on January 1, requesting him to facilitate the entry of video films into the competition sections of national and international film festivals.

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