The chord between Manipur and Japan


In the year 2009, a young man with big dreams took up challenges with the goal of bringing change to the film industry in Manipur and hence came up with his brainchild, Legend Studio. Since its inception, Legend Studio has clearly paved the way for global cinema, promoting independent and regional talents. Since then, a series of International projects have been planned and that's when Mohen Naorem, the man behind Legend Studio came up with an ingenious project- a project few dared to implement.

A self described cultural researcher, preserving indigenous religion, language, customs, knowledge, festivals and traditions through films, Mr. Mohen Naorem has evidently made news with his upcoming Rs. 1 crore project Manipuri movie My Japanese Niece. Legend Studio, according to the Manipuri Director, has been fortunate to have a good International partner based in US, UK, Korea, Germany and South East Asia.

So why a Japanese movie after all, we ask the man behind the scenes- "We have been searching for a story to start our project with a big bang and 'My Japanese Niece' just happened to be the outcome of it. The story is the result of my research in the plains and hills of Manipur on Manipur and Japanese connection." With a strong Manipur- Japanese connection pre and post the devastating World War II, aka Japan Lan (Lan meaning 'war' in Manipuri), the plan was further moulded towards feasibility.

Apparently, the project has been finalized. When I had a tête-à-tête with Mr. Naorem, who noticeably had a soft corner for the Japanese soldiers, he described how the soldiers were often branded as mass murderers- an ugly consequence of the WW II. "I wanted to break the stereotyped remark on these soldiers and that's when I thought 'My Japanese Niece' was the perfect project through which I could promote and spread the softness of Japanese soldiers in a positive tone. Moreover, we took it as a privilege to shower some love to the people of Japan," said Naorem.

Coming to the synopsis, the story is based on a Japanese soldier (played by Junichi Kajioka) who arrives at Imphal during WW II and stays back after the war.  He survives in the wild jungles preserving the dignity, loyalty and humane nature of a true Japanese soldier. Believed to have died long ago, his niece, who is in Japan, however has a dream about her uncle and travels to search for her lost uncle and in the process she discovers hidden facts about Japanese soldiers there.

So like anyone else, I had the same thought in mind…Rs. 1 crore? Wow! I couldn't let this question pass without asking Naorem about his progress- the set up of the movie, the budget, how he was working on it altogether. And this is what he had to say- "We have tied up with some film production company based in Japan and are ready for the distribution rights across the Asian continent.  Well wishers and supporters of Japanese soldiers and few friends have contributed to the funding of this mega project.

We will spend every single penny on the production to make it a huge success. Manipur is indebted to the Japanese government for their funding and support since time immemorial. We are promoting their stories through our film."

The much awaited movie is scheduled to start shooting this November with Japanese casts- model Yu Asada and Junichi Kajioka, a London based actor who has acted in many Hollywood movies. The film also stars US based actresses.

Says Naorem, "There will be 5/6 International casts in this project." After a herculean task of having a casting done since May (2012) across Asian Cities, Naoram wished for a Japanese cast for the role of the protagonists and eventually zeroed in on Yu Asada for the role of the niece, Asada. "A Japanese film must have a Japanese cast. It is a natural choice for me. I believe that film is a natural art and one cannot imitate someone. One must be comfortable with one's acting and psychology. Moreover, I wanted a true blood for this emotional role."

As the rendezvous was on, the next obvious question which struck my mind was whether the much talked about movie indeed has the potential to break the stereotypical format of storyline and also break international barriers. With the obvious 'no song, no typical drama sequence, no boring jokes, no atke-jhatkes and no hip-gyrating moves', My Japanese Niece is seemingly taking not only the Manipuri film industry but the Indian film industry too to a whole new level. "It is a total new concept- no stereotypical Bollywood format.

MJN will pave the way for our filmmakers to work in International projects. We would like to set an example not to end up in regional movies which have limited market and grab International attention." Having said that, it is but natural not to have doubts about one's abilities considering the scarce resources available in the Northeast.  Naorem too had his insecurities. Says Naorem, "Yes, with regard to the technical aspects, I fear. Manipur, particularly, North East Indian states, despite their recognition and accolades in many International Film festival circuits lacked the technical and state of art technologies in filmmaking."

With a set of International Team by his side who will look after the technical back end, Naorem's fears eventually faded and is ever more confident about the project and is taking every possible to make it a big BOX OFFICE success. "After all it will be the first film from our region for a global audience. It is a much awaited film and we don't want to disappoint our audience."