Manipuri Filmmaker Aribam Syam’s Flick ‘Ishanou’ Retakes Fest Tours Across The Globe

Guwahati: Acclaimed Manipuri filmmaker Aribam Syam Sharma has stood tall as his magnum opus ‘Ishanou,’ after three decades of its release, is travelling to 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 Bologna,’ Italy, ‘The Heritage Film Festival,’ Berlin and Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival. ‘Ishanou’ will be screened at ‘Festival des 3 Continents,’ Nantes, France and Singapore International Film Festivals, the Directorate of Information and Public Relations (DIPR), Manipur, said in a press release.

At Cannes, ‘Ishanou’ rubbed shoulders with other world classic movies and played to a full-house audience, even as Syam observed that his flick’s success was possible only because of the rich cultural heritage of Manipur. “It is 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 when it got invited as official selection in the ‘Un Certain Regard’ section.  It is considered a proud moment for Indian cinema as ‘Ishanou’ 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 feast due to the violence that has engulfed the entire state since May this year, the DIPR release said.

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 to prestigious festivals across the globe, it said.

“It is an honour to be listed among masters like Jean Luc Godard, Yasujiro Ozu, Alfred Hitchcock and the likes 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 a height,” Syam 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 (FHF) and Manipur State Film Development Society (MSFDS), the release added. 

When asked about the reason behind choosing Ishanou for restoration, founder of FHF, Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, said, “Indian cinema means the regional cinema. It may be Oriya, Telugu, Kannada, Malayali or Manipuri. They are the true gems of Indian cinema. But unfortunately they are overshadowed by Bollywood. Our focus is to find regional cinema.”

Dungarpur, 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.”

The 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, the release said. 

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

The story, screenplay and costume design of the film is by 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, the release further said.