Arlecchino Cinema > 16:40


Aribam Syam Sharma
Introduced by

Shivendra Singh Dungarpur


Thursday 29/06/2023


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

The first time I saw Ishanou was in April 2021 when I was in Imphal, Manipur. I was excited as they were screening a 35mm print of the film, which has become such a rarity these days. I also had the privilege of meeting the director, Aribam Syam Sharma, a doyen of Manipuri cinema and a Renaissance man. When the film began, I could see the print was not in the best of conditions with scratches and flicker, and uneven colours that disturbed the eye. Yet the beauty of the film and the simple yet powerful narrative rooted in the unique culture of Manipur transcended the distortions that marred the artistry of the imagery playing out on the big screen, and I was just mesmerized by the poignancy of the story of a young mother torn between her family and the call of the divine. I was determined that Ishanou must be restored to its former glory, and that the world should be reminded of a filmmaker who had put Manipuri cinema on the world map.

Shivendra Singh Dungarpur

Ishanou came into being organically, and through a natural progression  of events. When I look back, I feel Ishanou happened at the right time, even though it had been ten years since my last feature film, Imagi Ningthem. M.K. Binodini Devi was keen to write a screenplay based on the life of the Maibis [the priestesses of Manipur Kingdom] and I had already done a mammoth documentation project on the Lai Haraoba that gave me the confidence to film Ishanou.
This extraordinary pull or quiet inner urge of the chosen one to abandon the home and immerse oneself in the Maibi culture may seem bizarre, but it is very real. And in this tragic sacrifice lies the sublime art of performance – song and dance attuned to elevate souls beyond the mundane. A chosen one undergoes extraordinary experiences, and those shown in the film are based on experiences related by the Maibis to M.K. Binodini Devi. The music that I have used in Ishanou is the traditional music of Manipur, the creators of which have been long forgotten with the passage of time, but which has become a common treasure of Manipur. Perhaps Manipuri culture is the only one in which a whole philosophy of genesis is propagated purely through the performing arts  of Lai Haraoba. This unique aspect of Manipuri culture is the mystical canvas against which the human tragedy of the chosen one plays out.

Aribam Syam Sharma

Cast and Credits

Scen.: M.K. Binodini Devi. F.: Girish Padhiar. M.: Ujjal Nandi. Mus.: Aribam Syam Sharma. Int.: Anoubam Kiranmala, Kangabam Tomba, Baby Molly, Manbi, Soraisam Dhiren, Baby Premita. Prod.: Aribam Syam Sharma per Aribam Syam Sharma Productions DCP. Col.