TODAY -

Aribam Syam Sharma - Life sketch
(Awarded Padmashree in the year 2006)

By Donny Meisnam Luwang *


It is indeed rare to find an individual who expresses his artistic vision through different media. One such consummate artist from North-East India is Aribam Syam Sharma.

Born in 1936 at Imphal, Aribam Syam Sharma showed early interest in music and theatre. During his school days, he was involved in many theatrical productions. It was during this time that he composed his first song "Khammu Khammu Mitki Pirang".

Love of music took him to Visvabharati, Santiniketan, where he studied Rabindra Sangeet and Philosophy. He received Sangeet Visharat from Bhathkande Institute, Lucknow.

Image Ningthem winning grand Prix at Festival de trois Continents, Nantes)

Though trained in classical Indian tradition, his compositions reflect a deep understanding of folk and traditional music of Manipur. His experimentations of musical forms are always rooted to an undercurrent of the nuances of indigenous music. He became the first Manipuri Film music composer with his music compositions of the first Manipuri film Matamgi Manipur.

For his pioneering contributions to modern Manipuri music, he was honoured with the title of Sangeet Ratna by Manipur Sahitya Parishad in 2006.

Better known as a singer and a founding member of the quintessential music group 'Roop Raag' in his home state, his musical compositions for films, other artistes and groups have become classics in his own lifetime.

A scene from Imagee Ningthem 35mm B & W ) - 1981

When he came back home in 1960, he joined the department of Philosophy, D.M. College of Arts as a lecturer. He was to later serve as the Head of the Department. Concurrently, he experimented with Avant-Garde theatre in Manipur. His directions of plays, namely Ashangba Nongjabi, Khongchat, Ani etcetera mark the start of experimental theatre in the state.

He brought his experiences in music and theatre to filmmaking, and directed a string of popular films: Lamja Parshuram, Saphabee and Olangthagee Wangmadasoo - whose box office record has not been broken by any film till date.

With his film Imagi Ningthem (My son, my precious), scripted by renowned writer M.K. Binodini; his long time artistic collaborator, he put North-East India on the map of World Cinema. Dubbed as 'The Surprise of Filmotsav '81', it was acclaimed by the International film community as a masterpiece. The film was the first Indian Film to receive the Grand Prix at the Festival des Three Continentes, Nantes.

The mark that Imagi Ningthem made was etched deeper by the International acclaim of his subsequent films. His film Sangai: The Dancing Deer of Manipur was declared the 'Outstanding Film of the Year' by British Film Institute at London Film Festival, 1989.

A rare achievement of Indian Cinema came when Ishanou (The Chosen One) was officially selected for 'Un Certain Regard' section at Cannes Film Festival, 1991. The film represented India in many major festivals. Retrospectives of his films have been shown at different International festivals in recognition of his unique cinematic expression and voice.

Aribam Syam Sharma (presently)

Aribam Syam Sharma has, so far, directed eleven feature films and twenty seven non- feature films. His films have won sixteen national awards. He was conferred Padmashri in 2006 for his contributions to Indian Cinema. As a recognition of his contribution to documentary film making, he was conferred the prestigious V. Shantaram lifetime achievement award in 2008.

Dedicated to the film movement in the country, he has been a part of many film Societies, Institutes and Festivals. He is the founder president of Imphal Cine Club.

While serving as the first Managing Director of Manipur Film Development Corporation, he built the infrastructure needed to produce films in the State. In various capacities, he served the premier film institutes FTTI and SRFTI, and has been in close association with Guwahati Cine Club. Guwahati Cine Club in 2007 published his autobiographical book Living Shadows.

Related article/Photo Gallery on Aribam Syam Sharma


* Donny Meisnam Luwang is a young Manipuri writer / reporter based at Imphal. He is a regular contributor to e-pao.net.
This article was webcasted at e-pao.net on 24 September 2009.


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