Brief on Author L. Somi Roy
L. Somi Roy is a cultural conservationist and curator who writes on film, culture and polo for publications in India and the United States.
He promotes international polo and Manipuri pony preservation in India, and is a film curator who has organized exhibitions for the Asia Society, Museum of Modern Art, Film at Lincoln Center and Whitney Museum of American Art.
He has also translated the original Manipuri works of his mother, the Manipuri writer Manipuri writer Maharaj Kumari Binodini Devi. M.K. His published translations of Binodini include her historical novel The Princess and the Political Agent, a Penguin Modern Classic published by Penguin Random House India; memoir essays The Maharaja’s Household: A Daughter’s Memories of Her Father; her play Crimson Rainclouds; and screenplay My Son, My Precious.
He has taught at New York University and Manhattan Marymount College and has written on film and culture for The Smithsonian, Wide Angle, Art forum, International Documentary, the Black Film Bulletin of British Film Institute, and The Drama Review. He has given talks at the National Geographic Society, the Asia Society, and the Smithsonian Institution in the US; and Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, TISS in Mumbai, and at Manipur University.
Roy is the author of “And That Is Why”, his retelling of Manipuri myths for young adults, published in its Puffin Books imprint by Penguin Random House India in 2021.
Roy is the founder of Imasi: The Maharaj Kumari Binodini Devi Foundation in his native land Manipur. He started Imasi Publications in 2014 as an imprint of the Imasi Foundation to archive and publish the works of Binodini. To date, it has published a student edition of Binodini’s memoir essays Churachand Maharajgi Imung in the Meitei Mayek script in 2021, the collected song lyrics of Binodini (2014) and her radio plays (2015). Imasi Publications also published Calamity and Courage (2014) by Belinda Morse and co-published Ninsinglakpada Jalakeli (2020) on the royal women’s choir of Manipur.
Roy also built a collection of books on Manipur at the New York Public Library and established a collection of books on Manipuri history and culture at the South Asian Libraries at Columbia University in New York in 2015, which led to the inclusion of Manipuri in the Indian Civilization course at Barnard College in 2016.
Work in Archiving and Conservation:
Roy’s work in conservation includes organizing the Myanmar Manipur Conference on the Conservation of Cultural Heritage; and the revival of MK Binodini Devi’s environmental conservation dance drama Ballad of Loktak (1994/2016) in collaboration with Sangeet Natak Academy and the Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy.
Roy initiated and runs The Jalakeli Project to preserve and update a Manipuri royal women’s Hindu choir with historical and born-digital text, and audiovisual archiving at the University of North Texas in Denton. He organized India’s first workshop on digital archival practice at and with the IGNCA in New Delhi and UNT in 2019, with a focus on training archivists in North East India.