In memoriam : Sanakhya Ebotombi Haorokcham
- Part 2 -

Dr Lokendra Arambam *

Sanakhya Ebotombi Haorokcham - top Icon of Manipuri arts, culture and literature
Sanakhya Ebotombi Haorokcham - top Icon of Manipuri arts, culture and literature :: Pix Courtesy - Imphal Times

This show was to continue the next day and the next, because of a three day charity show. Interestingly there was a crisis of the same scene in the next show. When the time of the chant of Lalhanba was to take place, something unnoticed happened in the audience.

One elderly gentleman in the front row in the box-seat got up and went out of the hall for a pee. Unfortunately, his neck got struck into the strand of wire, and the wire broke with a thud on his neck. The gentleman without much hue and cry went out of the hall. What happened then was that Lalhanba's chant could not induce the much expected fire.

Frantically one of our young artists, a backstage worker casually took up the broken string from amidst the audience and tried to hand it over to RK Naba standing as a noble with full costumes and all. He couldn't possibly receive from the stage what was being offered from the audience. All were frantic inside the wings.

Ebotombi was forced to go up on a pillar inside the stage behind the wings and light a second fuse of another Meikappi which was earlier arranged as an alternative by our late Mamo Biramangol, who always had experience of such innovations and their possible disasters! Ebotombi got up hurriedly with his clown costumes and all to light the other Meikappi on the wire which was connected with the sulphur on the tray.

Through his sheer nervousness Ebotombi couldn't light up the Meikappi and it simply slipped down the wire without any burn at all.

Mamo was so angry with Ebotombi and with all his slangs, he lighted additional Meikappis and threw them into the tray.

The sulphur was never burnt. The contraption was avoided the next day onwards.

Such was the hilarious experiences of Ebotombi in his associations with creative production techniques in our cherished theatre. On another occasion of the show of Abhimanyu in the Mahabharata play, he and his colleagues wanted to let the Sudarshan Chakra of Shree Krishna to come wheeling down on the fingers of the Lord.

The first day was a success as the spinning Chakra adorned the raised hand of the Lord. The next show was a disaster as the electric fan disguised as a Chakra failed to connect because of the electric circuit and slowly fell down from up the Jhallur and the Chakra episode was thus closed!

Such was Ebotombi's pre-National School of Drama episodes in the life of the Aryan Theatre. When he came back in 1977 after finishing his drama course, he was most lovingly welcomed. The Aryan Theatre was entering into the stream of alternative theatre, taking a leading role in cultural entrepreneurship in innovations and starts of fresh inputs into the stream of proscenium arched plays in the seventies. The patriarch Mamo Biramangol as President of the Theatre supported our activities.

Ebotombi was asked to direct a play which, if completed, would have become a landmark in our theatre's history. The play 'Che Guevara' which was translated by my humble self from Mario Fratti's collection was given to Ebotombi and rehearsals were started in earnest. It was a second Mario Fratti play. Ebotombi had directed for Aryan Theatre 'Cage' in 1971-72 which indicated in his pre-NSD period a penchant for realism and western rigour in production. This time unfortunately the play had to be abandoned.

Because of administrative complexities in the traditional establishment of the theatre and the fierce desire for personal freedom and independence of actions and expression in the new Ebotombi and his pursuit of his own style of realism and rigour was no longer commensurate with the amorphous environment of artists in the old Aryan. He continued later separately in his pet group of the Avant Garde Theatre where he had much personal freedom to create.

His work in the Avant Garde Theatre contributed a fresh stream of energy in the authentic realism of theatre. He was quite happy to go on his own, amidst his supporters and followers. After the emergence of graduates from the National School of Drama, the tradition of group theatre as was associated in the new alternative theatre movement died out soon.

Certain vignettes of Ebotombi's association with the young days of alternative theatre was worth reminiscing, apart from our association with him in the Aryan Theatre. Both the elders of the Aryan including Mamo Biramangol and others were supporters of students and teachers theatre movements in the colleges in the late sixties.

When the DM College Drama Club was revitalized in the sixties with revivals of Shakespeare's as well as GC Tongbra's and Arambam Somorendra's plays, we had the fortune to participate in the All Manipur Drama Festivals sponsored by the Publicity Department of the Government of Manipur.

In 1968, the DM College Drama Club entered late A. Somorendsra's play 'Dasa' (Misfortune), and Ebotombi took the role of the 'uncle' (Khura). Pathou Ekendra was the Officer father of the hero 'Shyamkumar' played by Aheibam Birendra. Two of the most beautiful sisters Noyonsana and Tamphasana of DM College were gems in the cast. The play was directed by A Shyam Sharma and got acclaim from the public with Noyonsana getting the Best Supporting Actress Award with Ebotombi getting the Best Supporting Actor award.

Next year in 1969, the play 'Karbaar' (Business) of A. Somorendra was directed by myself, and the play got public acclaim with Ebotombi being tied with veteran Ojha Netrajit of Rupmahal theatres for the Best Actor award! Such are the happiest memories of our association with Sanakhya Ebotombi. Those of the theatre fraternity who had worked with him, and who had argued and quarrelled with him and all are in deep sorrow when he left this mundane earth.

An intense Sanskritist, an astrologer, scholar director and creative aesthete, he left his indelible legacy in the new world of Manipur theatre.

May his soul rest in peace.

(This article is a tribute to Sanakhya Ebotombi Haorokcham from Aryan Theatre. The writer is the president of Aryan Theatre)


* Dr Lokendra Arambam wrote this review for The Sangai Express
The writer is the president of Aryan Theatre
This article was webcasted on May 09 , 2016.

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