TODAY -

KAO - A Glimpse of Manipuri Opera

Rajmani Ayekpam *




Scenes from Laihui's new production Kao - the sacred bull :: Picture Credit - Mangangsana (Laihui)



Though Manipur has a rich tradition of dance and music but it has rare opportunity to witness Manipuri style of opera. Few attempted in this line.

Laihui, Centre for Research on Traditional and Indigenous art, is one of the few groups actively working on this line and attempted a unique style of Manipuri opera since few years back. Most of their productions are based on rich tradition of Moirang Kangleiron. Moirang kangleiron is one of best resources of story of any performing art of the state.

The art lovers of the State had witnessed two of the best style of Manipuri opera production from Laihui, ie Uraolol and Phouebi in recent times. Audiences who witnessed these two operas opined that Laihui has a unique style of Manipuri opera.

Modernisation & stylisation have inroad to Manipuri opera without disturbing of its fundamental concept. Beautifully designed costumes, well organised stage craft and effecting lighting system increase the beauty of the operas.

Phouoebi, Laihuiís one of the major productions is able to attract attention of audiences of the State and outside State as well. Elite audiences of the Metro cities even praised the performance of Phouoebi when it premiered.

Many considered that it breaks its originality when it used such modern equipment like beautiful lighting system, high quality acoustic system, well organised stage craft and beautifully designed costumes in a traditional Manipuri style opera. However, Laihuiís young and highly creative artistes beautifully designed the style of Manipuri opera. Such unique style is a tonic to the growth of Manipuri performing art.

Led by its young and energetic director and choreographer, Mayanglambam Mangangsana Meetei and its highly creative artistes used mainly Pena, a unique Manipuri style music in every production of theirs. Before this, Pena used most of the ritual ceremonies of Lai haraoba and Pena Phamsak as an entertainment in ballad style.

With an innovative idea, Mangangsana and his party intelligently used Pena in Manipuri style of opera. His style is the fusion of modern opera and the traditional Manipuri style.

It is a very challenging task to modernise a traditional style into a modern style without disturbing the sentiment of those die hard of Manipuri culture. Generally, Manipuris are sentimental and it is highly volatile in any incident which violated any part of the Manipuri culture. Manipuri theatre used rich cultural heritage and various performing arts of the state. However, their creative process should not collide with tradition of Manipuri culture.

Kao, the sacred bull, was the latest production from Laihui. The episode of Kao in Moirang Kangleiron is very popular in literary circle and among art lovers of the State as well but production style is more interesting.

The last rite of cow which was wandering in the lkopat, was the ultimate test of strength and valour for Khamba, the hero of the story and the Nongban, the villain. How men have close relation with animal was also highlighted in the story.

The story also dealt with societyís attitude of oppressed of weaker section by higher echelon. Itís a general concept that truth won over the wrong. This story is not different from that general concept.

The production design was more interesting than the story. It left proscenium stage and more comfortable with traditional courtyard style. But, it didnít lessen the aesthetic of the play.

Generally, in Manipuri opera, music dominates over the dramatic moment. But, in Kao, dramatic moment and music were beautifully balanced each other.

The unique characteristic of this production was that Pena, the royal courtyard musical instrument, played the main role in music section. Pena, played both on stage and off stage, synchronised beautifully during the play. Those artistes participated in the play are highly talented that they can act and sing at same par. Such talented artistes are very rare now-a-day. Mangangsana and his talented team trained those artistes very nicely.

Give-a-fresh-look is the mantra for every artiste who practised in the field of performing art. Even though the story is an old one, give-a-fresh-look in designing is the best look of modernisation.

Costumes are newly designed with beautiful texture without any disturbance to the sanctity of the traditional value and may be able to give a fresh look to the production.

Innovative set and lighting design gave another feather to this production. Directorís skill of selecting suitable pieces from the story can hold attention of the audiences to the end of the play. The singing and artistic acting skill of the artistes highlighted potential of a complete artiste.

Laihuiís latest production, Kao, the sacred bull will inspire all those who wish to come in the field of Manipuri opera. If Laihui continues in this field for a longer period in future Manipur style of opera may able to climb at a higher level and can become the best example of Manipuri dance and music.

Manipuri dance and music is very rich in resource but the artistes or composers who can experiment with new idea and new style is very few. However, Laihui, may be able to become a pioneer in the field of Manipuri style of opera.

See a full gallery from Laihui past production here


* Rajmani Ayekpam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on October 6, 2011.



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