BENGALURU: A Manipuri documentary directed by a city-based media activist has made its way to winning international acclaim within a month’s time since its roll out.
‘Fireflies,’ the six-minute documentary which elaborates on Meira Paibis (which translates into torch-bearers), a women’s social movement dating back to 1977 has now been selected to the Arthouse Asia International Film Festival after the official selection to the Balkan Can Kino screenings at Athens, Greece.
Director Johnson Rajkumar shares his thoughts on how the movement inspired him towards his first directorial venture, in a chat with Deccan Chronicle.
What makes Meira Paibi different from other social movements in the country?
It has been over four decades since the women of Manipur first took to the streets to fight the major societal menace of alcoholism and drug abuse faced by the community. Over the years, the concept of women voicing their concern and turning up in huge volumes has developed in turn contributing to a larger impact they have created as a joint venture. The movement proved its mettle when they became vocal against the rise in cases of disappearance of men after Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was implemented in the state. What makes it unique and commendable is the fact how women display their importance to stand up for the safety, security and better survival of their male counterparts.
As a director, what was your objective behind presenting this to the larger community outside the state?
Women are mostly seen confined to the four walls of their comfort zones in the country and even if they are part of a social movement, their presence has always been complementary. The fact that such all-women vigils at my home state have contributed towards bettering the social situation over the time has been inspiring to me and through this project I believe it would inspire people in other parts of the country and even the world as well. The documentary is also an effort to critically look into the influence of gender roles in a conflict situation. If it were men holding such vigils, they would have easily been branded as militants. The documentary also aims to be an eye-opener to many as a women’s collective has more to do beyond pro-feminists.
How has being an activist from Manipur and later getting based in Bengaluru influenced the narrative you have used in the documentary?
Moving to Bengaluru for higher education and career prospects made me realise how scarcely problems and issues from Manipur and the North East were represented in the media at the national level. Whenever something came up from there, it was either underrepresented or misrepresented as well. This pushed me from within to present our own story through what I felt was the right narrative. Hence Fireflies is my way of battling the set narratives to present facts in their truest and domicile form.