Welcome to another edition of Fried Eye. Today, let me share with you an enriching experience I recently had.
Whoever believes that regional theatre reaches out to a limited audience owing to its regional markers of language and cultural rituals needs to rethink the idea of regional theatre. I for sure did when I took myself to Shri Ram Center on 3rd of March, 2010 to watch a ticketed “Manipuri” play: Mirel Masingkha (The Will of Soul). You must be wondering as to why I put Manipuri in quotes. Read On.
Dedicated to Irom Chanu Sharmila, Mirel Masingkha is based on the lady’s campaign against terrorism in the year 2000. Sharmila had undertaken a fast unto death and for this was accused of attempting to commit suicide. The play focuses on the sheer violence and inhumane conditions that spread its tentacles over the land of Manipur – the many headed monster that Sharmila had undertaken her campaign against and how Sharmila fought for recognition of the same. The charges against Sharmila are strong but so is her spirit which refuses to see defeat. The play pays tribute to this unrelenting Spirit the Mirel of Irom Chanu Sharmila.
So far, the content and the socio-historical concerns seem distinctively Manipuri given the contemporary political theme of the play.What however makes Mirel Masingkha stand out from the numerous plays made on the socio-political situation of Manipur is its powerful and sensitive use of the language of mime. Yes the sixty-minute long play is executed through the language of the body: through gestures, movements, expressions and dance. Accompanied by gripping sound and light effects, the play fused local performing styles of Manipur with International mime. Through their vivid portrayal of characters, the differently-abled artistes on stage makes one realise how speech and hearing are indeed not indispensable to the art of acting. I watched spell-bound as scenes of atrocity, despair and human courage ebbed and flowed in front of my eyes for the hour.
This play was in contention for the 2010 Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards and bagged director Dr. Yumnam Sadananda Singh the awards for the Best Original Script as well as the Best Sound Design. Herein I must add that two other plays from the North East were also in competition for the final awards namely the Assamese play Guti Phoolor Gamusa directed by Bidyawati Phukan and the Garo play A-Chik A-Song directed by Pabitra Rabha. I wasn’t fortunate enough to watch these performed live and have only been following their press reviews. But I thank my friends who coaxed me into accompanying them for Dr. Singh’s play. The sheer vivid impact it left on me will surely stay for a long time.
Well, this issue of FE however is not about theatre or mime. It is about a different kind of play and playing – the play with words and the sheer variety playing with language can offer to those who are adventurous enough to let the games take them in. Bibhuti Borkotoky shares his memorable experience of being posted in a remote area. Young Kavya plays with rhyme, structure and form in herbeautiful ode to the nation and its heros in the Children’s section. Pramathesh takes us through a crime noir in first person while he pays his compliments to a beautiful lady through 55 Fiction. Share Noyon’s excitement at catching breakfast with Amir Khan on the star’s birthday and bite into the crispness of Lord Mani’s delectable survey in Random Take. As you move from one section to another, experience the delicate emotions of Jumi and Aien, as the young poets delve into different shades of life. Besides, do not forget to sneak-peak into our regular columns.
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