It is amazing how so many personalities from the Northeast have managed to carve a niche for themselves. These talented and young personalities have achieved wide acclaim in various industries in the country. Lukram Smil is one of the rising young personalities from the region.
Hailing from the capital of Manipur, Imphal, this young talent is a designer by profession who graduated from National Institute of Fashion and Technology in the 2011. Living a corporate life cycle, he has been designing for the popular Indian private conglomerate, Future Group, based in Mumbai for over seven years now. A prominent name in the Indian retail and fashion sector, Future Group has its name tied to supermarket chains like Big Bazaar and Food Bazaar, lifestyle stores like Brand Factory, Central, etc, and also FMCG manufacturing stores.
His big break in movies came when he was approached to play the lead role in the upcoming Bollywood movie titled Penalty starring alongside acclaimed veteran actor Kay Kay Menon. The movie revolves around the lives of a Northeast student playing football at a college in Lucknow and his coach.
When The Stars Align
Three years ago, Lukram had received a text message on his phone from the director of the movie, Shubham Singh himself. Convinced that it was a prank, he had disregarded the text. It was only after the recommendation of his brother Bijou Thangjaam, another talented actor from Manipur, that Lukram decided to call him back. But working as a designer round the clock, coordinating his schedules with that of the shoot was an issue which prompted him to decline the offer. Thereafter the movie team began auditioning other actors. However, six months before the shoot, his scheduling issues were solved and Lukram was cast in the lead role. The movie was shot primarily in Lucknow and Mumbai within a span of 30-45 days, with a special 4-day shoot in Shillong.
The First Time
Lukram had zero experience in professional acting before being cast in the film. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t exposed to it. ‘When you live in the hive of opportunities, you are always surrounded by people from various fields of talent, actors being one. I have always observed them with curiosity but never actually thought I would one day be asked to stand before the camera and perform.’ His audition didn’t go as smoothly as you would think. ‘My experience in acting began with the audition for the role. In my heart I believed that all those years of “acting” in front of my parents and teachers to get away with mischief would finally pay off. But when the director handed me the script and asked me to do a reading, I froze. I stammered in the first few attempts. The look of disappointment on the producers’ faces was enough to make me wonder whether this was the end of the road. But then, I remembered my mentor Monish sir who had given me a few pointers. Minutes later, I was standing in front of the entire team and was lauded for my performance. I landed the part!’ The production started with an intensive month of theatre workshops.
The NIFTy Days
For Lukram, NIFT was a major stepping stone. Not only did he learn designing but also the art of business in fashion. The world of fashion perpetually revolves around show business, which is why Lukram hadn’t been a stranger to both sides of the world. He believes that NIFT helped draw out his individual aesthetic and refine it. He managed to dodge some of the obstacles that his character in the movie faces and he has his peers to thank for their open-mindedness and constant support.
Behind the Camera
You’d be surprised to know that Lukram was never involved with sports when he was young. In fact, the first time he ever touched a football was on the first day of practice session in the movie. But he always had an eye for good clothes. Passionate about his hobby, which is now his profession, he loves exploring and analyzing the art of designing. When he’s not designing, he is busy shopping for antiques.
The Personal Connect
The issue of racism plays a pivotal role in the movie. Being a victim of the issue in the past inspired Lukram to work on the project despite his strenuous schedule. Being a Northeastern pursuing his dreams in a city far from home has been tough. He found comfort in his own personal space initially but after reaching out to people from different backgrounds, he realized that acceptance plays a major role in the removal of racism. He shares that acting has been the real eye-opener; as earlier he had watched movies just for entertainment, but now he can’t help but appreciate the work of the actors and the whole team.
The production team is waiting for the perfect date to release the movie. But we find ourselves wondering whether Lukram intends to pursue acting in the future as well. ‘If the opportunity knocks at my door, I will reach for it in a heartbeat,’ says the talented youngster.
By Deirdre Basumatary