Imphal: An Imphal-based civil body has barred popular Manipuri film actor Soma Laishram from acting and social functions for three years, sending shockwaves to the film fraternity of the strife-torn state.
The group, Kangleipak Kanba Lup (KKL) alleged her of taking part as a show stopper in a beauty pageant in New Delhi on Saturday despite a general appeal it made to the people and personal advice to her to desist from partaking in such programmes when Manipur is “still burning” for the last four months.
Film Forum Manipur (FFM), the umbrella body of all film bodies of the state, nevertheless expressed dissatisfaction over KKL’s decree on Soma and said it would move on to bring a solution to it.
Soma, who has acted in over 150 Manipuri films and bagged numerous awards clarified that certain misjudgments of her participation at the Delhi event were there.
On 16 September, Soma participated as a show stopper in a concluding programme of the North East Students’ Festival held at Talkatora Stadium, New Delhi that celebrated the cultural heritage of the northeast where she passionately spoke on the unprecedented current turmoil in Manipur and used the platform to appeal for support from all for peace and normalcy in the Manipur.
“As a professional actor and a social influencer, it is my responsible to communicate and speak up about the crisis in Manipur and I chose this platform,” the celebrity actor told Waari Singbul.
“The event I participated in is a northeast festival hosted by My Home India, a non-profit organization and the program I took part in is a a cultural program celebrating the cultural heritage of the northeast,” she said.
A resident of the Kongeng Hajari Leikai in Imphal West district said, she got a call from the concerned organisation a day prior to the program and suggested that she should reconsider participating in the event.
“I clarified that it is not a beauty or fashion show organized for fun to party. It is a cultural event where each state of the northeast was represented by their own chosen personalities like Nagaland, Mizoram, Assam, Arunachal etc. So from Manipur it happened to be me. They invited me. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity,” Soma Continued. KKL, in a statement issued on Monday, said that it had approached FFM and Film Actors Guild Manipur who then requested Soma not to take part in the Delhi beauty pageant.
However, Soma “in full defiance of all such requests and in total disrespect to the Meities who have died so far,” and thousands of people rendered homeless as many houses were burnt, participated in the event.
The existence of Manipur as a nation-state with over 2000 years of history stands at its most crucial hour and “as such the CardinalCrime of Soma Laishram participating in such festivities which compounds exhibiting Manipur as a normal State cannot be pardoned.”
Contrary to KKL’s statement that Soma chose to ignore the ‘advice’ FFM and Cine Actors’ Guild Manipur (CAGM) to which she belongs, the heads of the film bodies told the Warri Singbul that when they were individually approached to discourage Soma from participating in the fashion parade considering the unprecedented human crisis confronting Manipur, it was too late to intervene as it was on the day of the show.
FFM chairman, Laimayum Surjakanta Sharma admitted that he did speak to Soma on the issue. However he asserted that he didn’t ask her to abstain from the program after the actor informed how she had planned to use the prestigious platform to campaign for peace in Manipur as the show-stopper.
“Generally we have got a bad impression of the veracities of such beauty and fashion shows. But Soma explained that it was a cultural programme of the northeast. Soma said she was going to use this big platform to sensitize the unprecedented human crisis in Manipur to appeal for support for peace and normalcy to return to Manipur,” Surjakanta stated.
“FFM stands by Soma Laishram and will reason with KKL to withdraw its unilateral decree against the actor,” Surjakanta added.
Echoing Surjakanta, the Guild President, Lokendra Takhellambam said “the ban passed against Soma Laishram is not justified. Cine Actors’ Guild appeals to the concerned to withdraw the decree.”
Using her celebrity status and fan following, the Manipuri film star had been at the forefront of voicing the concerns of Manipur since the violence broke out. Besides using their show-stopper clout and rendering an emotional impromptu on the Manipur violence and appeal for support for campaigning for peace in Manipur, she also championed the cause of justice for the rape victims of both communities. She again delivered an emotional speech pleading for justice for the rape victim at Jantra Mantra, the next day after the festival.