TODAY -

An enthralling performance : The Sacred Witch

Diana *



The basic point about a "successful play" both in formal or thematic terms, is that the characters are always caught up in a sort of crisis, dilemma or confusion, they are always faced by some sort of problem.

In the days of yore, the problems the characters faced always involved people's relationship with God. And, in these days, plays began to focus on questions of social and political morality.

Palem Panthou Cultural Trust, a new theatre trust of Imphal, kept up its promise of bringing fresh air into the area of Manipuri theatre by mounting its play, the theatre production titled "The Sacred Witch" on Feb 24 2019 at NT Theatre, Imphal. The play has been written and directed by noted literary artist, playwright Dr Salam Shantibala.

Dr Salam Shantibala is an eminent Manipuri poet, short story writer, playwright and lyricist. She was nurtured in a highly educated and cultured family. She is associated with LEIKOL (Leimarol Khorjeikol), Manipur Literary Society and is former President of Writers Club Manipur. She teaches Manipuri in Nambol L.Sanoi College, Nambol.

She had published many books and also presented dozens of papers in various seminars held in the country. She received Dr. Ambedkar National Award 2006, Shabitribai Phulle Award for her contributions to Manipuri literature. Over the last three decades, Shantibala has rooted herself deep into the soil of literature.

She is the founder trustee and Secretary of Palem Panthou Cultural Trust, a Professional Theatre trust. She has written five stage plays and more than 30 radio plays. As a creative director managing trustee of PPCT, she developed herself from a literary artist to a Theatre activist, trainer, Director, producer and scrip writer. Her key areas of interest are literature, Theatre and film making.

Dr. Shantibala is always uncompromising : a lone voyager and properly a "Woman of the theatre and literature" who has been involved in the literature and theatre for more than 30 years. She fought for the rights of the weaker sections and demonstrated against the inhumanity of man's bestiality.

Her play "The Sacred Witch" have quality that comes from drawing substance from the male dominated society. She accepted folk coloration according to her temperament political belief, social realism and revolutionary romanticism mixed up with the documentation of folk experience. All art-forms must portray the possibilities of future, hidden in present day life. To portray the interior life, the artist is obliged to invent new and radical techniques.

Shantibala departs completely from the ordinary and common language and created a new dramatic technique. I asked director Dr. Shantibala, how she reacts on the play The Sacred Witch and then she replied : "The Sacred Witch" is a dramatized version of my poem "Oh! Star Jasmin". A poem, through words and rhythms, brings into my mind diverse thoughts and imageries. In case of a theatre performance, the experience is not exactly the reverse of what we experience while reading a poem, but the sensations that both trigger my souls are essentially similar. Both are products that spring from the same reservoir of thoughts, and they are the dimensional twins of creative sensibility. I think, theatre art and poetry share a bond that is inseparable. The juxtaposition of one with the other, I can simply say that production of this play has been extremely exciting venture fore me."

It's indeed heartening to note that after a few lady theatre workers, another Manipuri lady director Dr. Salam Shantibala has made a mark by directing her own play "The Sacred Witch". The play is about a sacred witch of a skull Garden living aimlessly with the frustration of broken dreams.

It is a play about witch hunting, a systematic act of violence against women. This is the storyline of the play in brief. The play contains beautiful metaphoric elements and lyrical ingredient and the director attempts to give a poetic touch in the presentation. The story of the Witch is still popular in the interior areas of the hill districts of the land where they still believe that the witchcraft which flows like a stream.

The production was based on zonal acting technique. At the very beginning, the play is rather a bit slow, but gradually gains momentum with the unfolding of the dramatic events. The writer, director presents some unique and suggestive visual effects, such as folk song of Lai Haraoba. The production is alive, the background voice of folk tune keyed to the interpretation of the play. Moreover, the folk song reflect the life of the sacred woman (Nepram Dhanapati), the another reality man (Prasanta Moirangthem).

The suggestive set designed by Kh. Ratan and innovative music designed by Laishram Ratan created an impressive atmosphere, which has duly supported by the lighting by Bhagirath. The selection of two characters, Dhanapati and Prasanta, is undoubtedly an excellent choice.

The production is very professional and extremely entertaining. The high degree of social awareness and the power to evaluate the trend of contemporary history makes oneself a great new women artist. Dr. Shantibala's works constitute these qualities her commitment to society and to create a new theatre history.


* Diana wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on 15 March, 2019.



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