Contribution of Leimayol Arts Centre in the field of Art & Culture in Manipur

Irom Calvin *

 Leimayol Arts Centre, Chingamakha
Leimayol Arts Centre, Chingamakha

Leimayol Arts Centre, Chingamakha which is popularly known as "LAC" was established in the month of October, 1970 with an aim to promote dance, music, song and drama in Manipur. It was originated in a very simple and humble way and now it has completed 51 years of its existence in the present society because of the tireless and relentless efforts of the members of this centre.

The main focus of this centre is to promote and preserve the rich heritage of all forms of theatrical art forms. Leimayol Arts Centre, Chingamakha was registered under the Co-operative Societies Act on 14th May, 1971 at the initiative of newly elected Board of Directors.

The first constitution of this centre was approved and enforced on 27th November, 1971 with (L) Haobam Ibotombi Singh, (L) Irom Nabakanta Singh and (L) Lourembem Dharmo Singh being elected as the President, Secretary and Treasurer respectively.

This centre has acquired its own land measuring an area of 0.20 acres near the main road of Chingamakha and has a semi-pucca building having an auditorium of more than 500 seat capacity and a spacious stage. At first, the plot was lying under water-logged and marshy land but later on, it was filled by many truck loads of earth which was brought from the sand of Singjamei Chinga Macha under the directives of (L) Irengbam Tompok Singh, Ex Deputy Chief Minister of Manipur under the initiative of (L) Huidrom Surendrakumar Singh, Ex President of LAC.

The foundation stone for the construction of the auditorium of this centre was drawn by (L) L. Mangi Singh, Architect, PWD, Manipur and was laid on 8th June, 1979. (L) Maisnam Jitendra Singh, Retd. Chief Engineer, PWD, Manipur played a pivotal role in constructing the present auditorium hall of this centre.

The first drama play which was produced by LAC, Chingamakha was the "Bhakta Biramangol" in the year 1971 which was played only by female artists. It had won 6 prizes including Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Production at the Drama Festival which was organized by Publicity Dept. Manipur.

It was directed by (L) Haobam Amuba Singh and was first staged at the Mandop of (L) Kongbrailatpam Thambal Sharma. In the year 1972, a play called "Leipung Wari" was played at the Drama Festival which was again organized by the Publicity Dept. Manipur. (L) Maisnam Mani Singh was awarded as the Best Actor of the said Drama festival.

Again, in the year 1973 a Drama Festival was organized by Manipur State Kala Academy and a play called "Sangoisana" written and directed by (L) Irom Nabakanta Singh was adjudged as one of the best historical plays in the state. Since then LAC, Chingamakha has been producing different drama plays of different genres from time to time.

So far, it has produced more than 120 drama plays and some of the memorable plays are "Sangoisana",
"Koubrugi Mamomloi",
"Jayadev Kavi",
"Apang Khunao",
"Liklang Pareng",
"Hingningleeba Thawai",
"Thonglen Laloitamba",
"Ariba Shatabdi",
"The Bet
" etc.

The first ever play of this centre which was played in hindi version was the "Jeevit Chahane Wala Aatma" which was directed by Laishram Prakash Singh, Ex Director of LAC. It was played at the 6th All India Multi-lingual Drama and Dance Competition which was held at Solan, Himachal Pradesh in the year 2003.

 Leimayol Arts Centre, Chingamakha
Leimayol Arts Centre, Chingamakha

A short story called "The Bet" which was written by Anton Chekhov in the year 1889 was abstracted and was rewritten by Manas Maisnam. It was also named as "The Bet" and was played at the 42nd Short Play Competition for Creative Directors, 2011 which was organized by Theatre Centre Manipur (TCM) in collaboration with Manipur State Kala Academy. It was directed by Oinam Sharmila Chanu, Director of LAC, Chingamakha and had won 6 prizes including Best Production, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Light and 3rd Best Music.

In the year 1999, a Radio Drama Festival was organized by All India Radio (AIR), Imphal and a play called "Chaina Pung" written by (L) Thoudam Nodiya Singh was presented and was regarded as one of the best plays in the state of that time. At present also, The All India Radio (AIR), Imphal also broadcast the drama plays which are being played by this centre on different occasions.

Leimayol Arts Centre, Chingamakha also participated at the State Level Drama Festivals and Competitions which are being organized by different theatre groups of the state under the supervision of Manipur State Kala Academy and Theatre Centre Manipur (TCM). Some of the drama festivals are Kha Manipur Drama Festival, Short Play Competition for Creative Directors and Rural Theatre Festival.

In the year 2014, LAC, Chingamakha also participated at the Festival of Plays which was jointly organized by Department of Arts & Culture and North Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre. In addition to the above drama plays, LAC, Chingamakha has been celebrating Khongjom Day every year on 23rd April ever since the establishment, and the renowned teleplay "Khongjom Lal" which was written by (L) Thoudam Nodiya Singh of this centre was telecast for the first time by Doordarshan Kendra (DDK), Imphal in the year 2000 under the initiative of (L) Irom Gyaneswar Mangang, Ex President of LAC.

The first ever souvenir of this centre was also released on 23rd April, 1991 as a part of Khongjom Day celebration of this centre under the presidentship of (L) Maisnam Jitendra Singh, Ex President of LAC. Presently, the Khongjom Lal play is broadcast by the All India Radio (AIR), Imphal on every Khongjom Day Celebration.

Initially for a very long period of time span LAC, Chingamakha was unable to participate at the national level competitions and festivals as it was not recognized by Sangeet Natak Academi, New Delhi, but later in the year 2002 after a long awaited time it was recognized by the Sangeet Natak Academi, New Delhi and got its support for the production of new drama plays. The initiative and process for the recognition of this centre to the Sangeet Natak Academi was carried out by the Board of Directors of LAC during the presidentship of (L) Irom Gyaneswar Mangang, Ex President of LAC.

The centre has been running all the drama plays and the necessary requirements or salaries of the artists and directors with the financial assistance and support from the Sangeet Natak Academi, New Delhi, Department of Arts & Culture, Manipur, Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India, MLA Local Area Development Fund and the contributions and donations that are being given by the general public for the development of Arts & Culture in the state.

Recently, in the year 2019 during the presidentship of Sagatpam Tomba Meetei, two salary grants were also sanctioned by Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India. For the past 50 years, Leimayol Arts Centre, Chingamakha has continuously strived to achieve a high standard of theatre production and this has reaped rich dividends in the form of various awards and laurels won by this centre at the state and the national level theatre festivals and competitions.

Without discarding the traditional theatre style of Manipur, the centre has adapted to the modern theatre forms and production styles and has produced experimental plays infusing different elements of rich art forms of the state, which had won critical acclaims in different drama festivals.

All the above achievements was successfully achieved by the able guidance of the distinguish Gurus/Directors of this centre namely, (L) Haobam Amuba Singh, (L) Haobam Ibotombi Singh, (L) Irom Nabakanta Singh, (L) Thoudam Nodiya Singh, (L) Loitongbam Manijao Singh, (L) Thokchom Shyam Singh, Laishram Prakash Singh, Ashem Seityabanta Singh, (L) Kiran Meikam and Oinam Sharmila Chanu.

With the increase and development of Artificial Intelligence in today's society, the drama and theatre plays have been decreasing day by day. Nowadays people from different regions all across the globe usually prefer using electronic devices for watching films, movies, dramas and plays. People have stopped coming to theatre auditoriums for watching dramas and plays due to the strong developing flow of new technologies.

In order to revive and save the theatre, we need to give an awareness of the knowledge of rich culture of Art and Theatre to the youths of today's generation for the betterment and for preservation of the Arts and Culture which were the dreams and aims of the people in the early days of life. Culture is the only way in which one can develop a region by unifying among the people and to spread the knowledge and feeling of peace, unity and integrity to the society.

* Irom Calvin wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at calvinirom(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on January 26 2022.

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