My experience of choreography of Radhakumar's Atoppa Sansar Amada
- Part 1 -

Budha Chingtham *

Commisioner IPR at Premier Show 'Atopa Shangsar Amada' at  Chandrakirti Auditorium (MCA) on December 3 2017
Commisioner IPR at Premier Show 'Atopa Shangsar Amada' at Chandrakirti Auditorium (MCA) on December 3 2017 :: Pix - DIPR

Indrakumar Soibam, theatre director shook my hand saying "Wonderful Preformance". Padmashree Naba Wareppa also said, "Very good. Very good." shaking my hand. My friends and acquaintances too appreciated my work calling it "Fantastic", "Landmark Performance". The appreciation did not end there just after the performance. Well known critics, directors, theatre scholars had pointed out the crux of the play.

Dr. I.S. Kangjam, President of Critics Forum commented:
"Most importantly, I appreciate the way you skilfully use the multi-media. Multi-media theatre has already reached Manipur. Many plays have used this so far. But up to now, no one has been able to use it as successfully as you have by synchronising it with the situation of the play. Today, many changes have come in theatre. Out of that, this play is successful."

R.K. Sanajaoba, theatre director and actor said,
"Other might take it otherwise! I have been working in theatre since 1955 and I have witnessed many diversed plays but this modern theatre play, I think I can connect to it and feel it."

"In contemporary Manipuri theatre, to produce such a visually rich and innovative work and again to retell the Manipuri lore of 'Helloi' (forest nymph) enchanting humans and making it still relevant in today's scientific world is a huge contribution. The play is shown in tow medium: one played on floor and the other in screen. One negative point of the play is that it is a bit too abstract to the common audience. But it is also interesting that one needs to think to get what the play is about and the play simply not a typical hero-heroines type.

Ranjmani Ayekpam, theatre critic, Secretary, Critic Forum
"In the journey of the new Manipuri theatre searching for new language and ways of expression through experimental plays, the use of multi media and the play of the lights in the plays compel us to think and ponder and at the same time it gives us a new taste of theatre."

Dr. Lamabam Gojendra, theatre critic, director, Vice President, Critic Forum
"In these ways, many noted personalities of theatre express their appreciation of the play. In my journey of theatre, this is a different experience. It was one of the best moments of my life. I forgot my struggle, disappointments and dejections at the very moment. This must be what one says is the life of an artist."

That day was 3 December, 2017. On this day, at Maharaj Chandrakirti Auditorium, Palace Compound, Imphal, the play which is a dramatised version of well known writer, K. Radhakumar Singh's (poet, short story and travelogue writer, I.A.S., Commisisioner ) Atoppa Sansar Amada (All Possible Worlds) was premiered. It is presented in mixed media dance theatre under Ascent Repertory Theatre, Imphal under the direction of Juma Khan.

By the blessings of Goddess Khangjing, the public were satisfied with the play. Here, I would like to share my experience of transforming the story from page to stage. The performance is a dramatised version of Radhakumar's short story Atoppa Sansar Amada, a two pages short story from his short story book Mitkup Amatang.

I had gone through some literary works of Radhakumar and I found his style of writing and expression unique. His stories intriqued me. He is straight forward in his expression and he mostly based his stories on unrealistic and unusual places. Here, I would like to say that he is a writer who is surrounded by new ideas and unconventional thought process.

I came across a unique short story Atoppa Sansar Amada in Radhakumar's distinct short story book. I woud like to claimed that this short story is his master work. I read it innumerable times. I might have read it more than a hundred times. I was conqured by this book.

In his work, there is this symbolism where the conscious and unconscious minds meet that enthralled me. One may not get the meaning of the story after reading it or one may simply read it as a man's journey in a dense forest.

But the symbolism that is hidden behind Radhakumar's work is a wonder to me. By using symbolism, the writer meticulously tries to put forth the topic - his views, beliefs, how he sees human life, nature, religion - directly as well as indirectly. That is why, his short story which though looks simple is his master work. The narrative of a story in a deep symbolic level and the apt use of literary devices drive me to a dream of a distinct choreographic work to represent this.

What is surprising in his use of literary device is that he is able to narrate stories which are again not uniform with the symbolic representation. He presents symbolism in two ways- one which is overtly visible and the other is a world that is embedded within the story.

Examples of those that are on the surface are- jungle, conch, pung (drum), jhan, a dog and its puppy, thorn, light, Krishna and house. Again, examples of those that are underlying the surface and not mentioned are- 'Helloi' (forest nymph), hills, rivers, lakes, cloudy weather, etc.

One instance is that 'Helloi' is the backbone of the story but this word is never mentioned in the whole story or play. But when the writer says, "They are searching for the man by playing conch, pung (drum) and jhan in the dense forest" he tries to indictate the presence of the powerful spirit 'Helloi'. He also uses religious symbols and mention can be made of the use of (Oom).

In fact, to translate Radhakumar's overt and hidden symbols into a play seems a never ending endeavour and to add to that is his minimal use of words. His mastery of using symbols is very rare. His text is symbolically overtone, dramatically theatrical and very philosophical. In real life as well as literary life, Radhakumar is unconventional.

In short, it is not easy to understand his writing. A reader needs to be intellectually equipped to understand and appreciate his emotion and art.

To stage such a writer's master work is not easy. I faced a big challenge. When I transformed the short story into a script, I retained most of the dialogues of the original text with a little liberty. What was tough was to translate the journey and texture of human life with symbolism on stage. We all know that symbols can be interpreted in different ways and there are numerous definitions of symbolism.

To be continued...

* Budha Chingtham wrote this article for The Sangai Express This article was posted on March 13, 2017.

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