TODAY -

Grooming Young Tribal Artists with a Passion :: Part 2
Thaninleima's craving for a changed scenario in Manipuri theatre

B.C. Khuman *



Asang Eina Aton, a Tangkhul folk play
Asang Eina Aton, a Tangkhul folk play :: Pix - Enaomacha Salam (Hueiyen Lanpao)



Recently during the month of September/ October, Thaninleima was conducting one more workshop under the aegis of NSD, New Delhi. In this workshop at Khenjonglang's theatre complex at Awaching, Keirao Khunou, Irilbung there were six tribal participants. Two girls (one Tangkhul and one Maring) who were already on the roll of Khenjonglang's artists under the tutelage of Thaninleima for the last few years and four freshers (two Anal boys and two Anal girls).

Each of the workshops concluded as a rule with a workshop-production shown to the public at the end of the training course. Looking back now in a nutshell, the end-product of the Tongou workshop was a play entitled 'Aton Eina Ashang', an enactment of the most-loved Tangkhul folk tale, telling the immortal love story of Shimreishang and Maitonphi.

And that of the Sandangsenba Maringkhun workshop was also a popular folk tale of the Maring community, known as 'Khalteba', a story of the differnce between the rich and th poor, woven around love-hunt. In the same way at Touphema (Nagaland) also a folk story was mounted on the stage as the workshop production. Why folk tales and legends only ?

"Because", Thaninleima explains, "folk tales provide ample scope to exploit cultural traits (both material and immaterial) and show varieties of cultural motiffs, depicting their traditional beliefs and customary practices including food, dress, songs and dances among many other things. Moreover the community itself would love to see their favourite story and characters coming alive on the stage, while the participants (artists) also find the characters close to them and easy to empathise with, and therefore helpful in effective improvisation.

Beyond the workshop premises, 'Aton Eina Ashang' was staged at Imphal and in Delhi (Bharat Rang Mahotsav, 2010; while 'Khalteba' was also staged at Imphal (Roop Mahal Drama Festival 2010), Teijpur, Assam (North East Festival 2010).

But in the recently concluded workshop at Khenjonglang's own complex, Thaninleima gave her blooming artists a great opportunity to do the famous Sanskrit play of classical era, entitled 'Mrichhakatikam'.

Sorinchon Zimik, the Tangkhul girl from Tongou (Ringwui) joined Thaninleima's Khengjonglang after the Tongou workshop. She has also acted in 'Kankan', discreetly designed play, based on Tagore's famous short-story of the same title.

Sorinchon Zimik preparing for the Tangkhul folk play Asang Eina Aton
Sorinchon Zimik preparing for the Tangkhul folk play "Asang Eina Aton" :: Pix - Enaomacha Salam (Hueiyen Lanpao)



In this play which marked Thaninleima's maturity as a designer-director, two Maring girls also took part doing their respective roles impressively. This play has already been shown at Imphal, Bhopal, Joypur and Banglore; all of them during this year 2011. The play is also scheduled for Tagore Festival in Delhi and Kolkata on 15th and 19th December this year respectively.

When asked about the difference of her experience as an artist in 'Kankan' and 'Mrichhakatikam' Sorinchom says that she is more comfortable in 'Kankan', because the latter demands a lot of subtleties in acting and dialogue delivery by virtue of its text. Yet she enjoyed it as a new experience that has enriched her sense of theatre aesthetics as a beginner.

The same opinion is shared by Keising Teon, the Maring girl. Both of them, attired in Manipuri style of classical (Manipuri) dance, had to dance intricate steps to the tune of Vaishav songs rendered by the Sutradhar in this Manipuri version of 'Mrichhikatikam'.

Hb. Ruwngthung, the Anal boy was very much pleased with his performance in the play. He is grateful to all the resource persons of the workshop and Eche (i.e.Thaninleima) for enabling him to do his part confidently and comfortably.

Despite the fact that many of the artists were beginners in this play, the play itself was on the whole a memorable experience for the audience. The treatment of the director was fine and admirable.

Though a typically happy wedding of an imported i.e. non-Manipuri text ('the content') and aspects of Manipuri performing arts ('the form) is not a new thing in contemporary Manipuri theatre, Thaininleima's 'Mrichhakatikam' delighted the audience surprisingly. A moderate success to be sure.

It is interesting to know that Sorinchon Zimik has recently hit the headlines of the local dailies a few months back as the first ever young theatre artist amongst the Maniupuri tribals having won, a Young Artist Scholarship in theatre from the Ministry of Culture, Govt, of India.

But her journey up to this remarkable point was an uphill task for her. She had been struggling inwardly with the opposing views of her friends, relatives and the villagers about her decision to do theatre. They were apprehensive of her choice, since they were uncertain of the prospects that could be offered by theatre.

But Sorinchin knew well that success is always a hard earned thing. It is always meant for the extra-ordinary persons, and not for the ordinary ones. Today she is happy that her own people is comparatively more lenient than before after her winning the prestigious scholarship.

Memory of the day when a team of ANI (Asian News International) T.V. came down to her village all the way from Imphal to have an interview with her on her remarkable achievement is still fresh in her mind. That day her village folks felt proud of her and they began to realised that she had not made after all a foolish choice.

Today, I think, not only Sorinchon's villagers, but also the entire Tangkhul community and the people of Manipur are for that matter are proud of her rising career graph. But this unassuming girl from Ukhrul remains calm and contemplative, knowing well that she has miles to go.

Teon, the Maring girl's story is also not much different. Initially many of her villagers did not approve of her choice. Some of them even dissuaded her openly. But she tolerated them as they were ignorant of the role of theatre in one's cultural life. Thaninleima says that these tribal girls are talented with foundational skills of singing and dancing. But they need to work hard and dedicatedly if they really want to become professional.

Hb. Ruwngthung Anal is from Chandel. He sings and plays guitar. Remembering his school days when a Manipuri (Meiteilon) one - act play from his text book got translated by him into English and was performed in a school function, in which he also played an important part, today he understands that theatre is a beautiful medium not only to portray life and society, but also plays a key-role in preserving and propagating one's traditional culture.

Today he falls in love with this composite art form which is clear from the excitement and enthusiasm that he barely conceals before this writer during the interview he gave me.

To be continued...


* B.C. Khuman wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition)
This article was posted on December 19, 201



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