TODAY -

Anouba Numit : My first leela experience

Thanreingam Muivah *

After long and tedious hours of work at the desk combating the glowing monitor with deadline set in mind for the next morning newspaper daily, it was quite a relief to have felt the ecstasy of watching a leela for the first time.

Manipuri artistes have made commendable contribution in the field of drama - be it shumang leela, or phambak leela.

These efforts have thus earned this tiny State of Manipur a good name not only in the national level but also in the international arena. However, until recently I have not come across any moment that gives me a thorough glance at such plays that are otherwise widely acclaimed.

It was on the fateful evening of Nov 13, 2008 that sister Geeta rang me up to convey the message of Ibai Gojen, who wanted to know if I was interested in Shumang leela to be performed the night itself. I simply reciprocated with a positive response and told them I would be there in time at their place in Meitram, where I spent most of my off days or say weekends.

By around 6 o clock in the evening I discovered that they already had their dinner so unusually (ahead of two hours compared to other days) and prepared to leave for the great event that was to take place at the play ground of Mekola, a small commercial hub covering three villages or leikais. As I finished my meal quickly we all dashed towards the leela spot.

Few minutes later, a huge crowd of over 3000 people including Ima-Ibel gathered at the leela venue all set to enjoy the night's extravaganza. Many of them were seen bringing phaan, morah, plastic chouki etc with them to counter the menace of dew drops that has wetted the entire spot enveloped with grasses. There I was with cousin brother Maya somewhere in the middle of the crowd curious to witness what the night's event would bring about in the cold November wind.

Loosing patience now some of them from behind us shouted at the organisers saying they couldn't wait so long for the play. Then soon came a husky male voice welcoming the crowd and making a plea citing the tight schedule of especially the farmers during this harvesting season to be the reason behind delaying the programme.

But much to the delight of the viewers, pre-event songs of famous artistes like N Ibomcha and Premlata turned the air into cloud of ecstasy. As the audience danced to the tune of special numbers from Play Singari, Lidicy Gulab like kari thada lak uge mera thada lak ura........., ahingshida leichilgum thabalgum ure etc, the much-awaited play followed.

About the play

Anouba Numit, meaning a new day, is a two and a half hours long drama based on the lives of daily wage earners who are usually exploited by their selfish employers in this cut-throat competition world. In the play, a business tycoon characterised as Prakash Sana ran a huge factory occupying several acres of land in a village inhabited by farmers. Prakash spent his life to the fullest but at the cost of the underprivileged.

The factory owner acted brutal towards his labourers. He was someone who did not incline to see the picture of pain in the faces of downtrodden people. For a slight error no labourer was spared from his cruel act of cursing and whipping. Everyone bowed to the knees of the capitalist who kept on multiplying his wealth and on whom almost the whole villagers later on depended for their livelihood.

After years of torture the villagers finally realised that land is something inseparable from them as they are all dependent on agriculture and eventually a wave of revolt to win back the land already acquired by Prakash started but with no much impact.

Interestingly, a man characterised as Achouba, a factory worker, appeared on the scene to teach the selfish bigwig a lesson for the ill treatment poor people have been receiving all those years. He disclosed his plan of avenging the factory owner to a Doctor called Minungshi under whose care coincidentally both Prakash's wife and Achouba's wife were being treated for delivery case.

With all humility, the sobbing Achouba pleaded to the Doctor to exchange the babies of his wife and Prakash's wife at the time of birth. To fulfil the prolonged plan of avenging the capitalist, Achouba expressed even his willingness to conduct a surgical operation upon his wife in the premature stage so that the two babies are born and exchanged at a time. The sympathy-filled Doctor then certainly agreed to execute the plan.

The plan being successfully carried out, Achouba got the baby boy of Prakash and named him, Manithoi while the baby girl of Achouba was given to Prakash at the time of birth without the knowledge of the later.

While the baby girl, Thoibi Sana grew up in a wealthy family with the luxurious life anybody can imagine, Manithoi only discovered the world of pain and sorrow in the grip of mighty Prakash as he and his father Achouba worked as labourers in the factory.

As the year passed by, one day to the surprise of the boy, the neatly dressed Thoibi visited him and expressed regret over an incident which the thrilling boy could not even recall. The girl then pleaded before Manithoi, saying "I am so sorry about my father's cruel act on the reception day." The boy in a mysterious thought still did not know how to reply.

It so happened once at the reception programme of Thoibi on her return from abroad after successful completion of her study that her father had beaten up the boy and his father Achouba for a petty reason, calling them minai macha, minai mapa (Slave son, slave father).

Few years later furious Prakash with dozens of commandos rounded up and searched a place where Manithoi and Thoibi Sana took shelter after they eloped. The boy was beaten black and blue and kept behind the bar. After days of torture at the hands of those cops, Manithoi who was near to his last breath was saved when Doctor Minungshi and Achouba revealed the bitter truth about the exchange of the babies at the time of birth.

Prakash yelled in pain as he recalled his cruel acts towards his own son all those years.

The helpless Prakash then gracefully accepted such moment of tears in life to be the greatest urge?a challenge to respect one's life irrespective of one?s status?as the bride and groom soon tied the knot.

Just as Prakash got a new son and a new life in the play, the entire event of the night that touched thousand hearts was hosted by Khosnam Ranbir to share his joy of receiving a baby boy. The play itself performed by Sanaleipak Nachom Artistes with O Prafula Chandra as director and Biramongol Mekola as its script writer is something I would ever love to cherish in the world of drama.

But this is not to undermine the role of Khoingang, a comedian in the play, and this would perhaps continue to tickle me.




* Thanreingam Muivah writes to e-pao.net regularly. The writer is also a regular columnist for The Sangai Expres and can be contacted at athan4you(at)yahoo(dot)com . This article was webcasted on December 06, 2008.

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