TODAY -

Manipur strife compels Shumang Leela artistes to take up other jobs
Source: Waari Singul Network

Imphal, December 28 2023: The ongoing ethnic violence gripping Manipur badly hit people of all walks of life, and among them, one of the worst sufferers are the performing artistes.

The strife's effect is so extreme that some Sumang Leela (Meitei courtyard theatre) artistes have changed their occupation for a living.

While some of them have begun driving auto rickshaw, others took up construction works, said lifetime secretary of Manipur State Shumang Leela Council, Shougrakpam Hemanta, who is also the top-notch comedian of the theatre, on Thursday.

In such a tough situation, Shumang Leela promoters expressed apprehension that the age-old traditional form of theater will die if the violence spanning more than seven months continues unabated.

Manipur strife compels Shumang Leela artistes to take up other jobs
Manipur strife compels Shumang Leela artistes to take up other jobs


Originally, Shumang Leela started as a comic genre presented to the kings and noblemen which ultimately developed into the current form, and over the years, it has become a powerful medium for mass education apart from providing entertainment as well as relaxation.

Hemanta said that there are 15 male Shumang Leela groups and around 18 female groups in the State, and each group has nearly 20 artistes.

He said each artiste of the male group could earn nearly Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 per month during normal days.

Now the artistes are facing their hardest times as they could not even make a single rupee out of their play since the conflict started on May 3 .

"Though we have not been asked by anyone to forgo performing Shumang Leela, our conscience doesn't permit us to stage play taking into account the ongoing violence that claimed over 170 lives and left a trail of destruction across the State," Hemanta added.

"Because of this, many of our Shumanga Leela artistes have taken up other occupations like construction works, blacksmith and driving taxis and auto rickshaws to augment their families," Hemanta said, adding that some of them even sold their properties like gold ornaments, vehicles etc.

During Covid pandemic, they stopped staging Shumang Leela for over two years, he said, adding that "when the situation improved, we got a breather with a great expectation that we would make up our earnings, however, the unprecedented ethnic conflict has hit us the hardest now," lamented Hemanta, a resident of Irom Meijrao in Imphal West district.

"As we are facing our toughest times, forcing some of our artistes to take up other jobs, we have a constant fear of the culture of Shumang Leela vanishing if the violence continues unabated," the top-notch comedian further lamented.

He requested the N Biren Singh led Government to increase the amount given to artistes under the scheme Chief Ministergi Artistesinggi Tengbang (CMAT) to mitigate the sufferings of the artistes.

"In our hey days, we staged Shumang Leela in the hill districts where many tribal people, including Kukis, enjoyed our play and we shook each other's hands.

Gone are those blissful days," Hemanta said, while praying for quick restoration of peace in the State.

* The sender of this news can be contacted at waarisingbul(AT)gmail(DOT)com .


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