My ouster from National School of Drama has been a blessing in disguise: Heisnam Kanhailal

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A scene from the play Tamnalai being played by artists of Kalakshetra Manipur at Maharaj Chandrakirti Auditorium. IFP Photo
A scene from the play Tamnalai being played by artists of Kalakshetra Manipur at Maharaj Chandrakirti Auditorium. IFP Photo

IMPHAL, March 12: Kalakshetra Manipur’s magnum opus ‘Tamnalai’ was re-enacted at the Maharaja Chandrakirti Auditorium, Palace compound here today evening enthralling audiences who turned up in large numbers to witness one of the earliest experimental play of the theatre group.

Heisnam Kanhailal, Director of Kalakshetra Manipur, KKM who is also the director of the play said his ouster from the National School of Drama during the 1960s has been a blessing in disguise for him.

Speaking during the formal function ahead of the play, Kanhailal said, “If not for my ouster from the National School of Drama because of my lack of communication skill in either Hindi or English, I would not have become what I am today”.

Kanhailal said he would have remained stagnant with the institutionalised plays of the ‘urbanised theatre’ which are made to be exported for a global theatre audience if he had completed his theatre training in NSD.

“It was a challenge for me to look into theatre practice with a fresh vision, however basing on the nativist traditional performing art forms of Manipur”, he said.

He lamented that the rich tradition of theatre in Manipur is going through a tough time. “I shall admit that our group KKM is almost in a state of extinction. It is out of our sheer love of the art form that we have managed to keep it alive in spite of various challenges”, he said. Kanhailal pointed out that besides many other factors the phenomenon of digital cinema has been one of the important factors which have led to the decline of theatre culture in Manipur.

“But in spite of the grim scenario we have to march forward with hope in order to keep alive the rich tradition of performing art”, he added. It may be mentioned that the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India recently announced Padma Bhusan Award to the theatre director for his contribution in the field.

K. Radhakumar Singh, Commissioner, Art & Culture, Goverment of Manipur, who was the chief guest of the inaugural function, maintained that the contribution of Kanhailal and his group Kalakshetra in theatre is outstanding. “I strongly feel that someone from the younger generation has to take responsibility of carrying forward the legacy of the theatre director, who has conceptualised a theory of his own”, he said.

During the function, ‘Theatre of the Earth’, a monogram compiled by Kanhailal, published by Seagull was also released. Dr N Premchand, Director of EMMRC, Manipur University gave a reading of the book. The function was also graced by Th Tombi Singh, President of Manipur Sahitya Parishad as guest of honour.

A host of theatre enthusiast, writers, filmmakers and artists were present to witness the play. G Bonny and L Tonthoi, popular film actors of the State also took leading roles in the play besides H Sabitri, acclaimed actor of KKM donning the role of the widow.

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