Still want to act, but in an offbeat role, says Kshetrimayum Rashi

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Rashi won the 13th Manipur State Film Development Society (MSFDS) Lifetime Achievement Award, 2020 for her outstanding and continuous contribution towards the growth and development of Manipuri cinema.

“I still want to act in front of the camera if offered a chance. But in an offbeat role, not the mainstream one,” said actor Kshetrimayum Rashi, of Imagi Ningthem fame.

In an exclusive interview to the Imphal Free Press, Rashi, now in her 70s, said she was always satisfied with whatever character she was given to play and gave all efforts to do justice to it.

Rashi recently won the 13th Manipur State Film Development Society (MSFDS) Lifetime Achievement Award, 2020 for her outstanding and continuous contribution towards the growth and development of Manipuri cinema.

“My journey as an artist started in theatre. My first appearance was in the role of Rani Gaidinliu in Jadonang, play of Aryan Theatre in 1969,” Rashi recounted.

Ksh Rashi in the role of Gaidinliu sitting in 'Jadonang'Ksh Rashi (C) in the role of Gaidinliu sitting in 'Jadonang'

There was no looking back since then for Rashi and she became associated with various theatre groups. She played the role of a loyal wife of a philandering husband in Arambam Samarendra’s play ‘Tirtha Jatra’. The play became a huge success.

Owing to its immense popularity, the play was adapted into a film with the title ‘Matamgi Manipur’, which was the first Manipuri feature film, released in 1972, and directed by a Bengali filmmaker, Debkumar Bose.

In the film, Rashi was given not the role of the wife, but of the woman who lured the husband. “That was how I embarked on my film journey, without any knowledge of the medium, yet fired by the passion to act,” said Rashi. 

The shooting was done in Kolkata as there were no equipment and studio in Manipur at that time. It lasted for about two months.

“I carried Rs 150 for my expenses. As an advance payment, I got Rs 500. I gave the remaining amount to my mother, under whose care I left my three kids including an infant,” recalled Rashi.

During the shoots, it was impossible for Rashi to understand the instructions of the Bengali director. “Aribam Syam Sharma, whom I regard as my teacher for both theatre and films, enabled us to communicate through translations,” she added.

Down the line, Rashi gave supporting roles in other films like Lamja Parsuram (1974), Saphabee (1976), Olangthagee Wangmadasoo (1980) under the direction of  Syam Sharma.

Rashi with actor Yengkhom Roma in 'Olangthagee Wangmadasoo'Ksh Rashi with actor Yengkhom Roma in 'Olangthagee Wangmadasoo'

However, Rashi is best known for her role in Imagi Ningthem, released in 1981 under the direction of the same filmmaker. Rashi’s role of a stepmother, who has unconditional love for the stepson always leaves the audience dumbstruck.

“I was given the leading role of the film. I still remember the director telling me that the film would be a different style,” she said.  “My fear was whether I could bring out the right expression. Somehow the direction and the screenplay helped me a lot in shaping up the role,” she added. 

On winning the lifetime achievement award, she stated, “I have received huge appreciation from different parts of the globe for my role in Imagi Ningthem. Now, I have got something I can show to people in my ripe age and I’m more than happy.”

Born to Ksh Bhubon and Ksh ongbi Rasamani, Rashi also worked as a senior grade actor of the departmental drama unit (DDU), Directorate of Information and Public Relations from 1978 till retirement. She has acted in more than 130 plays and is also an approved artiste of AIR Imphal. 

So far, Rashi has acted in more than 10 films, including digital films like Meera MemchaMomon Meenok among others.  She lives with her son, daughter and daughter-in-law at Thangmeiband Lourung Purel Leikai, Imphal.  

Rashi is also the recipient of Best Actress (in the role of Gandhari), 16th All Manipur Short Play Competition, 1985, Best Supporting Actress (in the role of Leima Inunganbi in Pidonnu) in Folk Drama Competition organised by North Eastern Theatre Organisation, Sahitya Seva Samiti, Kakching (SSS MANIFA) Lifetime Achievement Award, 2014 and Manipur State Kala Akademi Award, 2014.

First Published:May 30, 2020, 6:38 p.m.

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