Highways of Life by filmmaker Amar Maibam

Imphal: Highways of Life, a film by Amar Maibam — a bus conductor turned filmmaker from Manipur, has won the best film award at the prestigious international documentary film festival held in Bangladesh recently.

A 42-year-old father of two kids, Maibam portrayed the truck drivers and their lives along the perilous National Highways in his film while putting them on the frontline ferrying essential commodities for over 28 lakh people of the state.

Maibam’s Highways of Life is the only Indian film and second from Asia selected from 1,800 films from 124 countries. It won the ‘Best Film’ award at the 8th Liberation Docfest Bangladesh held from June 16 to 20 this year. He was awarded a cash prize of $1000, a crest and a certificate via video conferencing due to the pandemic.

Filmmaker and cinematographer Amar Maibam from Manipur

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Trucks stranded along the National Highway in Manipur

On many occasions, Manipur witnessed protests and economic blockades along the two lifelines of the state and truckers are among the most affected section of people often stranded for weeks and months on the road.

Maibam’s Highways of Life indeed clearly documents and interprets the silent arduous journey taken upon by the truckers.

Speaking with EastMojo, Maibam — who himself spent on the highways for 10 years as a bus conductor — couldn’t stop praising for those truck drivers who put their life aside for the well-being of the people, including their family members.

“I am very happy and grateful to get my film international film award but, most importantly, I am happier that the film will go to the wider audience and tells the neglected and unnoticed tales of the highway truckers. They are the unsung heroes,” Maibam said.

Then bus conductor Amar Maibam

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The 52-minute film produced by Films Division was shot in a span of five years as the Manipuri filmmaker journeyed together with a group of truckers as they manoeuvred through the highways.

“I love to make films for neglected, suppressed and unnoticed people, community or issues,” he added.

The film also won four awards — best non-feature film, best direction, best cinematography and best editing — at the 13th Manipur State Film Award 2020.

The filmmaker is now working on two major projects, both in post production stage — All for my Sister, a documentary on international weightlifter Khumukcham Sanjita and her brother fighting for justice on her doping scandal; and a biopic on renowned Manipuri artiste late Lourembam Pishak aka Abok Pishak.

Life of of truckers on the highways

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However, for Maibam, the achievements and accolades received so far come along with a roller coaster ride.

As he recalled the journey, Maibam said that he was introduced into the film industry by his late father MA Singh, a pioneer filmmaker and first generation filmmaker in Manipur when he was in Class VI or VII.

In 1995, due to family financial constraint, Maibam was compelled to drop out of school and started earning from an early age as a bus conductor along the Imphal-Moreh road.

In 2009, Maibam made his directorial documentary debut with City of Victims based on the extra-judicial killings in Manipur.

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