A Bit of Verity & Falsity by Vox Populi
Some tamnalais have been mowed down by Chandrakangnan with his thangjou. In an outburst of suppressed anger, reproach and resentment the tamnalais were slashed with a thangjou. Courage exhibited. Poor Chandrakangnan, alas! His disquieted widowed mother has to swallow her son’s guilt; shattering their long cherished dream of a happy life into pieces in a spurt of a moment.
No doubt, the onstage tamnalais mowed down by Chandrakangnan didn’t even rise once, yet in real life they haven’t died. They are still alive and haunting us. Forget death, they have grown in number and have become stronger. They have fanned our anger beyond measure. This is related to the play ‘Tamnalai’, written and directed by Heisnam Kanhailal. There are three wicked characters in the play who frequently annoy people with their mischief. They are the tamnalais. Obliquely, the characters Keirakpi and daughter Ngangbiton are also tamnalai in a way.
In disguise are so many tamnalais as well. Disguised or undisguised, in our eyes, the ministers and the MLAs are like tamnalais. Those who have contested elections, those who want to contest, we see them as tamnalais. These include high-rank officers, engineers, contractors, police, military and the armed men. Those who torment and make us bitter; those devilish profiteers who trade narcotic Heroin No. 4, we see them as tamnalais. Those overbold brats deserving tight slaps on their faces. Those extremely kickable bigwigs who also invite act of merciless chopping of their bodies, we see them as tamnalais.
What would be the consequences, out of fury if we actually bear out in that manner? Who will benefit out of it? Who will cry with their hearts out? This is the fate that befalls on Chandrakangnan and her widowed mother. This is the fate of so many mothers, so many women. In today’s Manipur there are tamnalais and tamnalais. They dwell in the lakes, rivers, up in the hills, within the ranges, in the alleys, among the houses, and in the offices. Tamnalais swarming everywhere.
Thus ‘Tamnalai’, which was staged for the first time in 1972, is still relevant today to be restaged after 44 years. The play could be relevant even after 88 years, in 2060. If we as citizens of Manipur do not change our outlook and conduct, ‘Tamnalai’ will remain relevant even in 2096. Needless to probe what prompted Kanhailal of Kalakshetra Manipur to write such a play and enact it on stage. Anyone born in 1996 after watching ‘Tamnalai’ will have a fair picture of Manipur that its society has not progress in a healthy direction since the 1970s, rather frustration and anger has multiplied among the people.
The designing and choreography of the play are still beautiful. It hasn’t become stale bread. ‘Tamnalai’ was completely a new form of play when it was staged in 1972 mesmerising the audience. Kanhailal became famous after ‘Tamnalai’. He became a well-known face of theatre. There was no looking back for him. He is now among the theatre luminaries of the world. He is a proud son of the soil, an accomplished Manipuri. Like him, if we have at least proud 40 MLAs-ministers, 70-80 officers among the high ranks, 400-500 clerks, 100-200 Four Grades, 50-100 doctors, 80 engineers. Need we say, Manipur would be shinning with Chandrakangnans who does not need slashing any tamnalai.
(English translation: Khura Seraton, Courtesy: Poknapham)