Rebel groups may have banned screening of Hindi films in Manipur for over a decade now, but that has not stood in the way of Manipuris love for Hindi cinema. And when the film is about Mary Kom, the most famous personality from this part of northeast India, a number of Manipuris have flown out of Imphal to watch Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s much-hyped bio-pic in Guwahati and other cities.
“Yes, theatre owners in Guwahati and Silchar have told me that quite a number of people have flown out from Manipur to watch the film that was released today,” said Abdul Mannan Faruk, whose Ajan Films is distributor for the film in which Priyanka Chopra has played the boxer. Faruk said ‘Mary Kom’ opened in 72 halls including a couple of multiplexes across Assam and Meghalaya today.
In Silchar in southern Assam, people came in busloads from Jiribam and other adjoining towns of Manipur to watch their most favourite sports star on the silver screen though the role is played by Priyanka Chopra. ”I am told that a number of Mary Kom fans from Manipur also flew to Guwahati yesterday and today to watch the film,” Faruk said.
Confirming this, Chinmoy Sharma, a leading theatre owner in Guwahati said the turnout was “pretty good” in the first two shows of ‘Mary Kom’ despite the student community remaining busy in Teachers’ Day celebrations on Friday. “The occupancy was as good as any other blockbuster Hindi film. Moreover, there was a significant turnout of Manipuris and tribal people,” said Sharma.
Hindi films have remained “banned” since 2002, with the rebel groups calling Hindi cinema a cultural invasion by “Indian expansionist forces.” Films made in the Meitei language meanwhile have thrived in the local market apart from making a major mark at the all-India level. Between 80 to 100 films are made in the state, mostly in the digital format.