In early 1990s, Mrs. Themneihat Haokip was an exceptional prodigy with exquisite acting skills. At her tender age, she was casted in two of the many Thadou-Kuki blockbusters. She was one of the most talked-about actresses of her time in the town of Churachandpur, (called locally as Lamka) among other Kuki inhabited areas. Pi, Themneihat Haokip was as a cynosure of all eyes. With these celluloid achievements, she raised Kuki Films to a new height.
She was born to (L) Songkhojang Haokip and Nemngah Haokip at Sangaikot village, Churachandpur District on May 11, 1978.
The Kuki film fraternity and her hard-core fans were shocked in awe to hear the sudden demise of the acting diva. She passed away on the night of 2nd June, 2020 at around 10:30pm at District Hospital, Churachandpur. She died reportedly due to a stroke. She was survived by her four children and husband. She was married to S. Langginmang Simte of the same village, so her legal name would be Themneihat Simte. But, her screen moniker would remain intact throughout the essay as Haokip for the sake of brevity.
In this write-up, as a tribute to the late A-lister actress, I would like to present a quick review of her most hit “KUM SOM KILUNGSET”. Pi, Themneihat’s starrer “Hinkho” was another film that attained an impressive box-office.
Plot: The Real to Reel
Kum Som Kilungset (Transl. Ten Years of Love) is a Thadou-Kuki romance film. The film is directed and produced by Pu, Letthang Doungel under NISO Films Company. Pu, Doungel is a pioneer in the Kuki film industry and is the owner of the film company. It was released in the year 1994. The film is starring Mangboi Doungel and Themneihat Haokip. The former plays Helen and the later as Hoinu. The film marks her debut as an actress as also a lead actress. The roles rolled out by the female protagonist depict the high-handedness of patriarchy. Her mom knows Hoinu’s affairs with Len. But, mom is not able to side with Hoinu. Doing that will be taken as undermining voice of the head of the family (Hoinu’s dad)
It revolves around a love story between Len (Mangboi Doungel) who lives in a town, and Hoinu (Themhoineng Haokip) who hails from a village. It is coincidence for Len to meet Hoinu in her own village while the hunky educated bachelor goes there to celebrate Christmas. The social gatherings during the festival turn out to be a good horoscope that makes way for the relationship. This results in them being closer and closer during the five-day-stay. This ends up in romance between them. The depiction of Christmas festival in the film has a well-intentioned moral or theme. The director would like to convey a message of parity between Patriarchy and Christianity. In Christian ethics as found in the Bible, hardly one finds women holding power or authority. Similarly, in the plot, Hoinu cannot have an independent decision-making power to pick her man of choice. Nevertheless, Hoinu was hopeful that she can convince their orthodox parents who, in contrast have arranged their daughter’s marriage with a villager young man. Hoinu is dissuaded both by parents and the villager lover by hook or by crook to untie the love that she has for Len. However, the Romeo-Juliet duo became inseparable.
Len has to leave soon for home as he is permitted for five days by his widowed mother. Len is an obedient young man. He loves his mother and the-only-brother of the family. They have no sister in the family. Despite his infatuation for Hoinu, he maintains his integrity; thereby he cannot stay over beyond five days.
Time has come, and as he is leaving, Len gifts a silver bangle to signify his pure love for his fiancée. Hoinu, like a typical young girl, pleads with her fiancé to remember her with a song called “Damsel tan O sopiteho…”(a local farewell hymnal of Kuki Christians). Back to home, Len continues his studies and does a part-time teaching in a school in the town (Lamka).
One fine day, Hoinu goes to the woods with his sister to collect firewoods. While the firewoods are being collected, Hoinu keeps humming with the song “Damsel tan O sopiteho…”, ostensibly with the belief that Len will keep thinking about her. Suddenly, Hoinu starts to smile and laughs herself louder and louder on nearing a big Banyan tree. Initially, Hoinu is joined by her sister in the laughter, because the sister thinks that Hoinu is filled with a good mirth. Sister looks up and down the tree, and she sees some weird objects hanging in the tree. She yells with her screeching voice, “Heno…!(Mom…!)”. She calls mom for help, but to no avail. The younger sister comes to know that Hoinu is possessed by demons of the wild tree. Hoinu becomes ill. On hearing the pigeon news, Len has become so restless. This time his mom has passed away and he lives with his brother alone. But, he is unstoppable by his household responsibilities. Rather, he is all set to sail to Hoinu for the second time. While Len makes a bantering with Hoinu’s mom and sister in the kitchen, Hoinu who is in the bed, disappears into the same wood and the same Banyan tree that have previously caught her to laughter. Len follows her and somehow manages to get rid of her illness and brings her home.
Len is gain about to leave the next day for home. During this second visit, romance between grows well and mature enough and knows no bound. This time around, they made heavy promises to each other. This film inculcates the intricacies of a relationship of what could happen when lovers make promises to each other.
Hoinu first takes two bunches of ribbon-like threads out of the folded hem of her wrap-around Khamtang Ponve ( a traditional shawl of Thadou-Kuki women). The first thread-bunch is red in colour. Hoinu tells to Len “Red colour signifies blood that embodies my sacrificial spirit and I will abide and stand by my promise until my last breath”. She continues her vow, “heo Len, do not disbelieve me. Women are made for man and to conceive. Behold, if I happen to choose another man, let a barren life befalls me. I will ready to accept such bad destiny as not bearing and conceiving a child with that man. The Sun, the Star, the Moon and the vegetation around us are witnesses to my promises”. In the Kuki tradition, a younger one addresses an elder one with a prefix “heo” before name of the person. The prefix literally means ‘brother of older age’. Len also follows suit saying, “Hoinu, if the fruit of the hard labour that I put into my study is not for you, then let them all be in vain. I won’t ask for any hand other than your self’s. Let the Sun, the Star, the Moon and the vegetation around us be witnesses to my pledges”. Then, they parted ways, each heading toward its own home.
Their love affair becomes twisted. She is told many bad things about Len. But, Hoinu never gets disappointed. However, she makes repeated attempts to meet Len in person. Due to communication gap, they cannot meet. Len is never aware that Hoinu is going to be married off to another man. Unaware, Len makes the third visit to Hoinu. This time he is beaten black and blue, because he is suspected of problem-making in a Send-Off Ceremony that is slated to be held the next day. Hoinu still loves and gives him time to elope. But, Len declines it because doing that will create a bad precedent and history will keep record of them. For the last gesture, Hoinu gifts the silver bangle to Len, who again declines it because that is what already gifted by himself to Hoinu.
Even after two years of marriage, Hoinu does not conceive one and leads a barren life. She confesses to her husband that she and Len had made vows to marry each other, which otherwise she will not bear any children. On her husband’s request, Len frees Hoinu off the vows by letting her go. Then, she thankfully conceives. On the other hand, Len is unable to attain any achievements due that promise he makes to Hoinu. He personally goes to Hoinu that she may untie him from the vows. Now that Len is as hopeful as Hoinu to be successful in future.
From the year they meet at Christmas and make love up till the separation, ten years have completed. Hence, the name of the film is “KUM SOM KILUNGSET” ( Ten Years of Love).
Lastly, but not the least, the passing away of Pi, Themneihat Haokip Simte is a loss to both Kuki Film Development Association (KUFIDA) in particular and all the Manipuri film fraternity associations and corporations in general.
(Review is of the writer’s self-wisdom. Not strictly to Review as a genre of Journalism.)