Spirituality in Manipur with Ishanou (The Chosen One), by Aribam Syam Sharma

Photo from the film ISHANOU (THE CHOSEN ONE), by Aribam Syam Sharma © Film Heritage Foundation

Presented as part of the selection in Un Certain Regard in 1991, Ishanou (The Chosen One), by Aribam Syam Sharma, helped introduce the Indian region of Manipur to the world. Over 30 years later, this history of love and loss tainted with mysticism at the heart of Manipuri culture returns in its restored version for Cannes Classics.

Tampha (Anoubam Kiranmala) is a young mother living a peaceful life with her husband and young daughter in the valley of Manipur. But then she leaves everything overnight to join the Maibi priestesses and understand how the spiritual world interferes with aspects of ordinary life. However, her religious quest does not quell her anguish as a mother cut off from a child she will not see grow up.

Actor, singer, composer, theatre producer and director, Arybam Syam Sharma put his multiple talents to work in his films. In Ishanou (The Chosen One), the story evolves to the rhythm of music that he composed himself. The sound of the traditional instruments, as well as the camera work, provide the story with the feel of a documentary on Maibi culture and the folklore that surrounds this sect of priestesses.

The project is also the fruit of his collaboration with writer Maharaj Kumari Binodini Devi, who wrote the film’s screenplay and dialogue while being attentive to the authenticity of Tampha’s story. The change of scenery provided by Ishanou (The Chosen One) elevates its qualities, and its selection in Cannes Classics in 2023 shows that maternal love has always been a universal language.

Presented and restored by the Film Heritage Foundation at the laboratory of L’Immagine Ritrovata and Prasad Corporation Pvt. Ltd.’s Post – Studios, Chennai, in association with producer and director Aribam Syam Sharma and the Manipur State Film Development Society. Financed by the Film Heritage Foundation with the support of Dr Richard Meyer and Susan Harmon.