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Ishanou: Aribam Syam Sharma’s restored Manipuri classic to be screened at Cannes 2023

The 1990 film, restored by Film Heritage Foundation, is the only Indian film to be showcased under the ‘Classic Section’ at Festival De Cannes 2023

Ishanou: Aribam Syam Sharma’s restored Manipuri classic to be screened at Cannes 2023

Legendary director Aribam Syam Sharma’s Meitei film Ishanou was released in 1990

Last Updated: 12.13 PM, May 10, 2023


Manipur may have been embroiled in communal and ethnic violence lately, but this piece of news about the northeastern state is sure a reason to take pride in. Legendary Manipuri filmmaker-composer Aribam Syam Sharma’s cult film Ishanou, which is centred on the state’s Maibi culture, is considered under the ‘Classic Section’ of the prestigious Festival De Cannes 2023, which is scheduled to take place from May 16-27. 

Written by MK Binodini Devi, the 1990 Meitei film features Anoubam Kiranmala and Kangabam Tomba in lead roles, Baby Molly, Manbi, Soraisam Dhiren, Baby Premita as the supporting cast. The film was first aired in Doordarshan and then released in Imphal’s Usha Cinema on 6 July, 1990. Later, it was showcased as part of the ‘Un Certain Regard’ category, at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.

The latest move, however, is in keeping with the tradition of reviving forgotten gems of Indian cinema. The film is restored by Mumbai’s Film Heritage Foundation, and it’s been officially selected for a red carpet world premiere on May 19 at the coveted Cannes Film Festival 2023. Ishanou is the only Indian film to be considered under the ‘Classic Section’ of the fest this year - a segment dedicated to celebrate restored versions of classics. Established by filmmaker-archivist Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, last year the foundation screened the restored version of Aravindan Govindan’s 1978 film Thamp̄ at Cannes.

Commenting on Ishanou being selected for Cannes, Shivendra - Director of Film Heritage Foundation - said, “It is fantastic that Ishanou is returning to Cannes in all its glory, 32 years after it was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991. Film Heritage Foundation is so proud that our restoration of Ishanou has been selected for a world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival 2023, and that we are returning to Cannes for the second year in a row after the success of our restoration of Aravindan Govindan’s film Thamp̄ that premiered at Cannes last year.”

Adding to that, producer-director Aribam said, “It has been a journey of discovery to work with Film Heritage Foundation, and to see my film restored so beautifully and respectfully and given a new life after over 30 years. Ishanou came into being organically and through a natural progression of events. When I look back, I feel Ishanou happened at the right time.”

The movie was restored using the best surviving elements - the 16mm original camera negative preserved at the National Film Archive of India and two 35mm prints preserved by Aribam.

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