Manipuri film IT'S NOT MY CHOICE triumphs in every aspect


Brainee Hijam
The 2015 Manipuri short film, It's Not My Choice (Eina Khankhiba Natte), which runs for 14 minutes, continues to make a lasting impression even after almost 8 years. In a place like Manipur, where the understanding and interpretation of queerness are still widely misconstrued, there is a lack of authentic films that accurately portray queer characters. While a few films have been made about transgender individuals, they often fall short and end up portraying queer people in a caricatured or comedic manner. However, IT'S NOT MY CHOICE, starring Bishesh Huirem and written and directed by Priyakanta Laishram, breaks this pattern and stands out as an exception.
The movie's script revolves around the events of a solitary day and explores the everyday challenges of bullying, teasing, ridicule, and prejudice that Sanathoi (Bishesh Huirem), a young transgender individual, encounters. It highlights her unwavering resolve to stand up for herself. Within a mere 14 minutes, the film successfully enthralls the audience with its compelling, thought-provoking, and powerful narrative.
The movie not only challenges society's views on the mistreatment, prejudice, and mockery faced by queer individuals but also provides an explanation as to why being queer is not a matter of choice and is perfectly acceptable and ordinary. The climatic face-off scene between Sanathoi and her father, a true masterpiece in terms of cinematic excellence, serves as a metaphorical representation of the confrontation between queer individuals and society as a whole.
Priyakanta Laishram's ability to maintain a straightforward and concise screenplay and dialogue without becoming didactic in conveying his intended message is truly praiseworthy. It is undeniable that Priyakanta Laishram excels in his writing and directorial skills, as evidenced by his remarkable work in this film. The film maintains a remarkably understated atmosphere through its cinematography, background score, make-up, and costumes. These elements serve as additional strengths of the film, immersing us in its authenticity and allowing us to momentarily forget that we are merely spectators.
Bishesh Huirem, the protagonist, delivers her career's finest performance in this film. Despite her extensive experience in Sumaang Kumhei plays and two feature films, her portrayal of teenager Sanathoi is truly exceptional. Unlike her other movies, where she tends to go overboard, she flawlessly captures the emotions in the most genuine way in this film. She skillfully strikes a balance between realism and exaggerated acting, proving that the film director plays a crucial role as the captain of the ship. With a sharp vision and uncompromised directorial skills, the director can bring out the best in their actors and ensure a successful outcome. Ithoi Oinam and Chakpram Idhou also deliver commendable performances as Sanathoi's (Bishesh Huirem's) friend and father, respectively, considering the limited screen time they are given.
Since its release on September 1, 2015, in Imphal, the film has been screened in 16 Indian States and participated in 25 film festivals, both in India and abroad. It was also screened at Delhi University, Panjab University, Mumbai University, and the Regional Institute Of Medical Sciences, Imphal. It has received numerous accolades, including the Special Jury Mention and Honorable Mention Award for Bishesh Huirem, as well as the Best Screenplay, Best Film On A Social Cause, Best Dialogues, and Best Director awards for Priyakanta Laishram. Following its online release on YouTube on January 15, 2017, the film achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first short film from North East India to surpass 1 lakh views within a week. Furthermore, it also became the first short film from the region to exceed 1 million views.
The film, which was written, edited, and directed by Priyakanta Laishram, was produced by Harendra Laishram under the production banner of Priyakanta Productions. Balli Ning-thoujam handled the audio- graphy of the film, while Momo Khurai took charge of the cinematography.