Shumang Lila under threat from westernization

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IMPHAL, May 20 (NNN): Fearing that Shumang Lila or courtyard theatre play has been increasingly subjected to the danger of being wiped out with the jettisoning of its tradition and the import of western culture, director of Theatre Mirror and Sumang Lila Warepam Naba has expressed the need to preserve the art in its pristine form.
Shumang Lila is a traditional performing art form of Meitei society of Manipur which is performed with the accompanying musical beats produced from traditional instruments like penna, Longdel etc. Shumang literally translates as courtyard while Lila means a play. It is performed traditionally on the courtyard, hence the name Shumang Lila.
In an interaction with media, the director of Theatre Mirror and Shumang Lila sounded caution on the future of the art form with the increasing use of western instruments.
“The traditional flavor of Shumang Lila is weaning in modern Meitei society,” Mr Naba rued, while also adding that an academic sub committee is exploring every possible way to revive the changing face of the art form and to reintroduce it in its pure form.He is optimistic that the revival of the ancient art will be an engine which will take the rich cultural heritage of Meitei to the outside world and put it across for national and international recognition.
Speaking at Iboyaima Shumang Lila Shanglen in Palace Compound in Imphal today, Mr Naba said that he has been in theatre movement since the 1980s and has performed in about forty Shumang Lilas in Manipur.
The present scenario of Shumang Lila is precarious with the introduction of western instruments like drums and keyboards, he said. He is still actively directing about four/five plays for Naharol Khongthang Artists Union in an attempt to revive it to its pristine ancient form so that the new generation would pick up some clues of their roots and anchor.
“If the current trend to blend western style into Shumang Lila continues unabated, the future generation would forget the pure form of the art and when we attempt to include it for national festival, we will surely be a laughing stock,” he said.
Since a few years ago, Theatre Mirror led by Warepam Naba has been in the forefront to promote and train young generations in Shumang Lila and has since organized about twenty intensive training courses in collaboration with Theatre Mirror and four with Shumang Lila Council.
A one-month training program is currently underway under the joint aegis of Theatre Mirror and Shumang Lila Council Manipur with W Naba as project director, Gundendra, the council president, as the camp director and S Hemanta, secretary of the council, as technical director. The program that started on May 17 will go on till June 17 with the participation of fifty-one boys and girls of all age groups.
Mr Naba said that in order to promote and preserve the ancient art form of the Meitei, an academy has been set up where young and upcoming artists are being groomed. The syllabus of the academy is tailored with the participation of academicians and intellectuals, he said.
He is the chairman of a sub committee that organizes seminar, workshops, discussions centered on the culture and the art form.
During the course of the one-month training, a play would also be staged which will be titled “Seirenchankhraba Thawai” which will be a throwback to the ancient and pure form of the art.
There is a steady increase in interest amongst the artists of Manipur, but there is a dearth of talent because Shumang Lila artist must have extraordinary, god gifted and inborn talent which is very rare to find, he said.

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