We recently chatted with Bala Hijam – the vivacious diva in Manipuri film industry.

In our extensive conversation with her, she talks about a range of subjects from the perils of being a celebrity in Manipur to the budget invested in regional cinema. She has catapulted herself into becoming the most in-demand actress. Bala Hijam opens up, by her own admission, like never before.

For starters, Bala’s tryst with the industry happened eight years back when she was as young as being in class 8. Her debut performance was through ‘Telangga Mamei’ directed by Oken Amakcham, who is a very renowned director and has been working since the inception of celluloid in the Manipuri film industry. Her role was that of a younger sibling of veteran actor Olen. Despite her substantial foothold back then, Bala completed her high school shortly after which she started shooting for ad commercials. She got her launch after getting the opportunity to star in Romi Meitei’s ‘Khangdreda Nongdamba’ which also had Bala’s predecessor Kamala in it.

“That was the start of a beautiful and enchanting journey”, she says.

I sign about four movies every month, which takes over a year’s period for its release because of various factors Iike curfews and strikes in the state. In a month, about two films release here. It’s tough being an actor, and it drains you

Currently, she is at the pinnacle of her success and we questioned what brought her close to acting and not any other profession. With a gamut of expressions, she says, “I never really thought of acting as a career, to be honest. I always wanted to become a journalist. I love music too, especially pop music. When I was a kid my mom even enrolled me in a singing class but that was classical music, and I wasn’t very interested in that. I still love singing and I love music. But I’m not very comfortable to sing in front of the camera. I hope that someday I shed my inhibitions and sing for a movie. I post a lot of my music videos on Instagram though. So baby steps for now.”

Bala says that it was Da Romi Meitei who taught her the nub of acting and it was him who gave her a breakthrough in her career.

she also featured in a Malayalam film titled ‘Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi’ with Dulquer Salmaan where she realized the differences between the two regional film industries.

“Da Romi Meitei was my first ever mentor in the industry. I got my first major role as a female lead through him. Throughout the film’s journey, he kept supervising me and showing me the pathway. His teachings did not limit me to acting alone. He taught me filmmaking. He taught me about the camera and how I was challenged to face it. About the magic of dialogues and the beauty of a character. There have been various other people who have helped me, but Da Romi Meitei taught me the essence of filmmaking.”

Bala is the veritable contemporary Manipuri movie star. She’s got a league of fans and a no-nonsense approach to her career. For real, she’s not the glossy babe, but probably the person you’d fall in love with, the best friend kind, this young girl who shies away from singing in public, but does so with whole heart when away from the arclights.

I was cast in the Bollywood flick ‘Zindagi on the Rocks’ but had to drop out because of personal issues

We asked her if she fears all this fame and stardom could be away from her someday, to which she candidly replies, “Not at all. I don’t think this ever comes as a threat to me because, before me, there were other actors that I replaced. There were dazzling actors like Kamala, Manda, Binota and Sonia who were once the queen of Manipuri cinema. We need to realize that this is not our permanent seat, and not our lifeline either. We need to be practical with the realization that we can’t act as a lead character throughout our lives. We will grow old, we all will think of settling down in lives at some point or the other. We need to come to happy terms with the fact that this too, shall pass. But yes, enjoy the limelight so long it lasts.”

While romantic link-ups stretch to add mystique to her girl-next-door persona, a spate of challenging roles that have lined up only validate that she’s an actor in process…

I have a Mr Right in my life, but wouldn’t want to disclose his identity. He isn’t from the industry

“This January, I have ‘Sanagi Nga’ releasing, and then there’s ‘Angaoba‘ and ‘Selfie’ directed by Ajit Ningthouja, which was shot about two years back and there’s another Ajit Ninghtouja film called ‘Hang-Hang’. And then there’s ‘Ebungee Echal’, directed by Hemanta Khuman.”

I love writing and maintaining my personal diary that no one knows about. I love writing poems as well

We were amazed by her hard work and regularity of film engagement.

“I sign about four movies every month, which takes over a year’s period for its release because of various factors Iike curfews and strikes in the state. In a month, about two films release here. It’s tough being an actor, and it drains you. But you only do it because you love it. And maybe someday I would love to be a producer where I get to make my kind of films. “

Bala throughout felt like a firmly chill girl into the glamour world. But there’s never a day off for the busy star. And busy she is. But she confesses that she’s grown a lot since she stepped her foot into acting. On being questioned on which movie had the biggest impact in her life, she admits,

I am competitive but that’s only for myself. I don’t like indulgence in pointless controversies and rifts between my co-actors.

“In restrospect, ‘Yaiskulgi Pakhang Angaoba’, just changed me completely. I played a Kabui girl’s role. It is probably one of the most challenging roles that I’ve picked on. The accent and language had to be that of a Kabui girl. It was really fun and I’m glad that people appreciated my performance. The director and my co-star da Bony Gurumayum helped me a lot. I was very new to acting then as I had only done performances on stage. That was one career-defining role. I had also got an opportunity to work with with internationally recognized Aribam Syam Sharma, but because of date issues I was unable to do it.”

And with all that streaks she also featured in a Malayalam film titled ‘Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi’ with Dulquer Salmaan where she realized the differences between the two regional film industries. Dulquer is the son of megastar Mammootty and is a big name in Malayalam films.

I would love to act in other regional or even mainstream movies, but to be honest I am so fed up with all the banning and controversies. Since the last couple of years, actors and directors are banned from working in Bollywood.

“It was great stepping down from my comfort zone and working in a cross-culture setup. Dulquer was very jovial and he’s one of the biggest names down south. It was so huge compared to Manipuri films. Even in terms of money, it’s extravagant, it’s big. We can’t even compare that setup to our regional films. It’s like comparing a sea with a pond. A bigger budget and a wider audience reach would be helpful for actors to concentrate more on fewer and better films. Maybe quality content as well. The budget is one of the biggest issues and we also have a limited market reach. We can create art movies in smaller films but where is the market? We don’t even have a proper theatre. The producer only has an option of releasing films within a few districts.”

We then asked her about Loktak Lairembee’s director, Haobam Paban Kumar’s statement about the dearth of educated filmmakers in the regional industry in Northeast India.

I had also got an opportunity to work with with internationally recognized Aribam Syam Sharma, but because of date issues I was unable to do it.

“Yes, I agree with Paban’s comment. But every film can’t be a good film. We all know the market and budget of Manipur. Producers here can’t invest 20-30 lakhs in a particular movie. It needs time and effort to create a good film. We cannot afford to spend 4-5 years making a festival film. Most producers want to produce films within a short period of time with less money and they don’t want to spend or invest huge amounts”, said the beautiful actress.

We were also quite curious if she wants to venture further into other regional films and Indian cinema.

“I would love to act in other regional or even mainstream movies, but to be honest I am so fed up with all the banning and controversy. Since the last couple of years, actors and directors are banned from working in Bollywood. But I am not sure about working in other North-Eastern films. I heard that recently the National Award Winning, Tonthoi Devi, worked in Utpal Borpujari’s Assamese movie, ISHU. I am not quite sure but she doesn’t promote the film here in the state. I don’t want it to be a big deal and create more drama for myself. I will first make sure that all the ‘ifs and buts’ are addressed before I say yes to any project outside the state. I don’t want to take any risk. All these controversies drain me out. I’m human after all, I try my best to deal but it gets difficult.”

I am competitive but that’s only for myself. I don’t like indulgence in pointless controversies and rifts between my co-actors.

Since Bala has seen the ups and downs of her career early, no amount of box-office drama can distract her from her goal.

“Not all of my movies are going to be a blockbuster or a hit movie and that’s okay. Whether a film is a hit or not depends on so many factors. So much of it depends on the way of filmmaking and the director’s vision. I have worked with Da Romi, Ajit Ningthouja, O. Gautam, Bijgupta, Homen D Wai and almost every renowned director. There’s Hemanta Khuman as well. All these filmmakers know what they want and they have the abilities to execute their vision. Despite all the rights, a film still doesn’t do well. But yes, I believe in my art and I work hard. There’s no stopping to that. Maybe that is why people love me.”

The actress is quite popular on Instagram and she admitted to using it for her recreation. She is also very close friends with her contemporary, Soma Laishram so we inquired if such a thing was likely.

“Competition should exist but it should be healthy and progressive. A lot of actors like Soma Laishram, Suchitra Wankhem, Biju Ningombam are brilliant and hardworking. I am competitive but that’s only for myself. I don’t like indulgence in pointless controversies and rifts between my co-actors. Personal relationships should not get in between professional ones.”

We asked her what it takes to be a Bala Hijam and she replied with much humility,

“Hard work opens up your passage like nothing else. The life of an actress looks glamorous on screen but nobody knows the pain and dedication that goes beyond the composition. Chase your dreams, but do give yourself a reality check.”

WATCH the trailers of Bala Hijam’s movies:



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