IMPHAL: Insurgents have banned many a thing in Manipur in an attempt to alienate people from the 'mainland', one of them being the screening of Hindi movies. The three functional movie halls in the Manipur capital only screen English, Korean and Manipuri movies owing to fear of insurgents. “We do not want to rub them (insurgents) the wrong way. The lives of our family members are at stake,” Aju, manager of Pratap Talkies said.
The last Hindi movie that was screened in Imphal was the Shahrukh Khan-starrer Kuch Kuch Hota Hai way back in 1998. Chief Minister N Biren Singh said the ban was the result of an encounter of a top People's Liberation Army (PLA) commander in Kangla area of the capital. “I have been in power only for the last 18 monts. I will do something about it in due course,” he added.
Manipur has been affected by insurgency for the last two decades. Around 99 groups operate in the state.
Some of the major ones include the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK). According to sources, the UNLF has a estimated cadre strength of 1,500 while it is 1,600 and 250 for the PLA and the PREPAK, respectively.
Residents of the city, however, do not appear to be hassled with the non-screening of Hindi movies. “There are two reasons why we are not affected. Firstly, the ban has been in place for almost the last 20 years and we are used to it. Secondly, CDs and DVDs of Hindi movies are readily available so we get to watch what we want,” 32-year-old K Singabhi Singh said.
In fact, manager of another movie hall, Friends Talkies, who did not wish to be named, said he was happy with the ban. “Not many people here are anyway interested in watching Hindi movies. They like watching English language movies and cherish a Korean one once in a while. So, the ban has not really affected my business. As long as my movie hall is operational and is feeding my family, I have no problem,” he said.
Echoing his view was 24-year-old David Singh. He enjoys Hollywood and European movies. “Right from a young age, I have been watching English movies. I like them a lot. It’s not that I have not watched Hindi cinema, but I do not like them. I think they are poorly made,” the George Clooney fan said.
Government officials, however, want to resume the screening of Hindi movies soon. “As most of us have not been in Manipur for a long time and have been deputed here now and also because the clout of insurgents has significantly diminished in the state, we would want the screening of Hindi movies to resume soon,” a government official said requesting anonymity. Only time will tell if Bollywood makes a return to the northeastern state or insurgents continue to remain a hurdle for B-Town.