Naga Mandala the Manipuri Drama : Review
by: W Rorrkychand Singh
In an attempt to add a new taste in performance using indigenous forms of performing arts, Theater Director, Kshetri Jugindro adapted noted theater personality, Girish Karnad’s play “Naga Mandala” in Manipuri.
Thus begins the narrative of Rani, (Kh Matouleibi Devi) the epitome of innocence and virtue in the play while her husband Apanna (Y Rajdhon Singh) is a brute and an adulterer. He treats her with callous indifference, returning home in the mornings only to bathe and eat his meals and as a last indignity, lock her inside the house every time he goes out. Rani lead an unfulfilled existence as Apanna’s bride.
Kurudavva (the blind one), a friend of Apanna’s death mother, gives Rani a magic root, which she is to grind and mix in his food. Rani does as told, but though Apanna faints briefly, he recovers and behaves exactly as he always does with her, that is, obnoxiously.
Kurudavva is undaunted, and gives Rani a large root, which Rani obediently mixed in Apanna’s milk and it turns the color of blood. Terrified both of her husband’s volatile temper and of poisoning him, she pours the milk down a hole, which is the house of Nagappa’s (a serpent played by Rajdhon).
After drinking the milk that was poured out Naga enters Rani’s house having taken the form of her husband. She also responds to his caresses with delight and gratitude. It was Naga’s first visit soon become routine.
When she discovers herself pregnant, Apanna accuses her of infidelity and beats her up. The Naga who really loves her, knows the charade must end. He tries to find a way of shielding her and her unborn child from Apanna’s wrath. He advises her to take the agni pariksha before the villagers so as to show her purity.
Here, Rani has to decide whether she has to forgo her real husband for the love of Naga for good or the other.