SN Chand : The father of Manipuri cinema

    01-May-2022
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Meghachandra Kongbam
Contd from previous issue
If we study SN Chand’s Brojendragi Luhongba, it may not be an exaggeration to say that the film emerged as a product of the New Indian Cinema wave, which was prevalent from the latter part of the 1960s to the 1980s. SN Chand himself was an active member of the Film Society of Manipur. The film was a complete departure from the mainstream cinema and made with a realistic approach dissecting the then trends of Manipuri society which was about to be blown away by an alien culture. It was a wake-up call for the masses for identification and realization of one’s ethos.
It was during the emergence of the new Indian Cinema, many regional films from different parts of the country also found a new premise with striking glory and achievement. Under the initiatives taken up by the Government of India, such landmark films were produced. The period heralded a shift from mainstream cinema to a new direction where films were based on social issues with a realistic approach.  The films generated a new wave of thinking and discussions amongst the masses.
Funded by the Film Finance Corporation of the Government of India, films like Bhuvan Some of Mrinal Sen (1969), etc were considered as the birth of the movement of the New Indian Cinema.
It was preceded by films considered as Parallel Cinema like Pather Panchali of Satyajit Ray (1955), Ajantrik of Ritwik Ghatak (1958). The films were based on realistic humanism. The New Indian Cinema also focused on socio-political consciousness. The establishment of the Film Institute of India at Pune in 1960, the National Film Archives of India in 1964, and the Film Finance Corporation in 1960 helped financially and logistically in the production of a new genre of films.
John Abraham’s Vidyarthikale Ithile Ithile (1972), Adoor Gopalkrishnan’s Swayambaram (1972) and G Arabidan’s Uttarayanam (1974) were the Malayalam films emerging out of the New Indian Cinema wave. Pattabhi Rama Reddy’s Samskara (1970), BV Karanth and Girish Karnad’s Vamsha Vriksha (1971) and Girish Kasaravalli’s Ghatashradha (1977) were Kannada new wave films. Gautam Ghosh, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Aparna Sen spearheaded the movement in Bengal. Bhabendra Nath Saikia, Jahnu Barua also emerged in Assam.
After SN Chand, Aribam Syam Sharma, MA Singh and K Ibohal Sharma came forth to make new wave films in Manipur.
SN Chand wrote the script and directed yet another Manipuri film- Ngak-E-Ko Nangse (What a wonder you are) produced by Wangkhem Basantakumar under the banner of Poonam Pictures. It was the fourth Manipuri film made in 1974. The film depicts the impact of a growing alien culture in the Manipuri society, its crisis and the realization of one’s identity after getting into trouble.
The film opens and ends with a traveller (Irom Nabakanta) driving a jeep on the serpentine road in the hills of Manipur. He describes the uncertainty of life through a song-
“Punsi! Ngak-e-ko Nangse
Khangdeko Nangse
Karamba Nangi Lipunna Chetna
Pullibano Taibang Meeoiba
Haiyu, Eikhoise Nangi Sannapotla;”
(Oh life! You are amazing
Don’t understand you
Which thread of yours binds us?
We human beings, so tight.
Tell us, are we your toys ...)
The film has seven songs- two romantic songs, a ballroom song, a sad song, a traveller’s song, a lullaby and a devotional song. All songs are penned by noted writer and lyricist B Jayantakumar Sharma and composed by legendary singer Nongmaithem Pahari who himself sang four songs. The film is a trendsetter, which depicts the social turmoil in an elite Manipuri family.
In a story of joy and tears, the eldest son Binoy (Manish Ningthouja) who is a Forest Officer of a rich family meets a vulnerable girl Shanti (Rajani Yumnam) accidentally and saves her. A traveller (Irom Nabakanta) picks them up and provides shelter at his place. They fall in love and get married in a temple. The social fallout of the relationship between the two is intense as she is not accepted by her mother-in-law (Binokumari). But her father-in-law (Laishram Netrajit) who is dominated by his wife accepts the simplicity and devotion of Shanti. The film is “A fresh and stimulating family drama of modern family” depicting the story of two girls who dream of a “happy life and romance”. The mother-in-law however encourages her daughter Anita (Bobby Bhattacharjee) to be involved with a rich Casanova Ravi (Basantakumar) who later exploits both of them.
A man breaks in and attempts to molest Shanti and taking it as an opportunity, the mother-in-law sends her off. Her husband is shocked when his mother tells him that his wife has gone on her own after her illicit relationship has been discovered. The husband and wife search for each other and Shanti finds solace in the hills and gives birth to a child.

(To be contd)