NEW DELHI: In a time of upheaval in Manipur, two prominent filmmakers from the region, Mayanglangbam Romi Meitei and Saikhom Ratan, achieved recognition at the 69th National Film Awards held in New Delhi on October 17. These awards came against a backdrop of instability in the state. Additionally, Borun Thokcom, another filmmaker from Manipur, took pride in his role as a jury member in the non-feature film category.
The awards were presented by President Droupadi Murmu in a grand ceremony attended by renowned Indian movie stars and promoters. This year, the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the highest honor in Indian cinema, was conferred upon actress Waheeda Rehman.
Romi Meitei was honored for his outstanding work in the Manipuri feature film category with his iconic film "Eikhoigi Yum" (Our House), while Saikhom Ratan received recognition for his non-feature film, "Beyond Blast," winning the best biographical film award. Notably, Romi Meitei had transitioned from a successful mainstream commercial filmmaker, having directed over 100 box office hits, to delve into the realm of parallel cinema with "Eikhoigi Yum."
In a bittersweet moment, Romi expressed his happiness at the recognition but couldn't fully embrace the celebration due to the ongoing crisis in Manipur. He reflected on the inspiration provided by the Manipur State Film Development Society (MFSDS) in commemorating the Golden Jubilee of Manipuri Cinema (1972-2022. "Eikhoigi Yum" had the privilege of opening the first 'Eikhoigi Imphal International Film Festival' (EIIFF), one of the highlights of the celebration.
Saikhom Ratan, on the other hand, regarded the awards ceremony as the zenith of his filmmaking journey, which commenced in 1992. Nevertheless, he expressed a sense of overwhelm tempered by concerns about the situation back home.
Borun Thokcom, who served as a jury member for the national honors for the first time, is himself a national award-winning filmmaker. He described the rigorous process of reviewing over 200 short and documentary films in multiple languages. Thokcom emphasized that the universal language of cinema transcended any linguistic barriers, highlighting that films made with passion and the right intent consistently stood out.
In the face of the prevailing unrest in Manipur, these awards serve as a testament to the enduring spirit and talent of the state's filmmakers, who continue to make their mark on the Indian film industry.