Profile of a playwright - Ranjit Ningthouja

Rajmani Ayekpam *

In the long twenty years journey of Ranjit Ningthouja's playwriting, his plays (Shumang leela) not only entertained Manipuri audience but also entertained non-Manipuri audience of outside Manipur.

He was introduced as a young playwright in the year 1995 with a play 'Tingkhang-gi Lambi' by Modern Dramatic Union. Then, in 2001 with his play 'World Trade Centre' and again in 2004 with his play 'Lidisigi Gulap' (both performed by Sanaleibak Nachom Artiste) he has established one of the most versatile and energetic playwright (Shumang leela) of his time.

His plays have not only concentrated to local audiences but also have eye to audience of non-Manipuri (not aware of Manipuri language) of outside Manipur.

Till now, about thirty six plays have been credited to him. Many of them were very popular among audience.

A blockbuster play Ningol Chakouba (1999-2000) introduced Ranjit Ningthouja as a playwright in the world of Manipuri Shumang leela with 642 number of performances, has a record of maximum numbers of performances in his career.

Then, World Trade Centre (2001) got 480 performances including performances at outside Manipur like Mahisur Auditorium, Mumbai; SOS Children Village, Pune; Gorky Sadan, Russian Cultural Centre, Kolkata etc.

Lidishigi Gulap (2004), another blockbuster of his play, had 492 number of performances including outside Manipuri performances like
i) Goa Municipality Corporation, Panaji;
ii) Mangalore Alva's Education Foundation, Mufagiri;
iii) Bangalore SOS Children Village, Banegata;
iv) Gangtok witnessed by Sikkim's Chief Minister of that time;
v) Kohima on invitation of Governor of Nagaland;
vi) Russian Centre for Culture & Science, New Delhi. In that occasion, Prime Minister of that time, I.K. Gujaral and other few foreign dignitary also witnessed the play;
vii) Gurgaon Centre of Brahmakumaris (Haryana);
viii) Harman Grammar School, Faridabad (Haryana) and
ix) Pragti Meidan, New Delhi.

In that occasion, Governor of Manipur of that time, Dr SS Sidhu alongwith other few other foreigner dignitary witnessed the play. Restafan (2005), another popular play of Ranjit Ningthouja, got 371 number of performances and also given performance at Multi Cultural Complex, Salt Lake, Kolkata sponsored by EZCC representing Manipur. The play was performed by Peace Maker Artiste Association.

Another popular play, Keidoungei Chatkanai (2005), performed by North-Imphal Manipur Jatra Mandal got 420 number of performances.

Fate of Uganada (2006), another popular of him, performed by Sanaleibak Nachom Artiste, got 319 numbers of performances. Gusmogee Khudol (2007) performed by Peace Maker Artiste Association, another blockbuster play of him, got 312 number of performances.

A popular play, Lambidudei (2007) performed by North-Imphal Manipur Jatra Mandal, got 305 number of performances. Eighteen Nineteen (2008), another play of him, also performed by North-Imphal Manipur Jatra Mandal got 411 numbers of performances.

In addition, his plays won number of awards in individually or group in the festivals organized by Manipur State Kala Akademy, Imphal. It's worth to mention like Second Best Script (Ningol Chakouba, 2001), Best Script (Lidisigi Gulap, 2004), Second Best Script (Eighteen Nineteen, 2008), Second Best Script (Inamma, 2015), Second Best Script (Lamtagi Kunipani Panba, 2015).

Also got Best Production (Lidisigi Gulap, 2004), Second Best Production (Restafan, 2005), Best Production (Keidoungei Chatkani, 2006), Second Best Production (Keidoungei Hallakanai, 2007), Best Production (Inamma, 2015) etc.

Many Shumang leela groups of Manipur were given performances successfully for his plays. There's no doubt he is a successful playwright of his time. To study his plays becomes an institution. The unique quality of Ranjit Ningthouja's was able to make a good play out important personality and event of the world by inserting local taste.

Even, Lidisigi Gulap, Opium War, Fat of Uganda, Restafan etc. were stories of outside, can able to entertain local audience. Local audience accepted these stories. These were capability of the Shumang leela.

On the other hand, popular plays like Ningol Chakouba, Mou Natte Ningolni, Inmma with local stories, can also able to highlight beautiful life and culture of Manipuri society.

One of the important moments to be remembered long time for his play was that World Trade Centre was planning to premier at New York, USA. The event was initiated by Somi Roy, son of Imasi Binodini, one of the best known writers in Manipur. Some of the video clips were shown in cable TV and newspaper in New York for promotional programme of the event.

Acting and look of Thoubal Tomba in the role of Osama Bin Laden, was super and outstanding and even can attract threat from other side. There was a security problem for premiering of this play. The programme was cancelled due to security reason. However, after some time, some theatre personality from America came to Manipur and witnessed the play 'World Trade Centre' and gave words of praise for this play. After the play, during introductory function, one American woman came up and touched head of the Ranjit, said 'Your Shumang leela defeats our Hollywood.

Now-a-day, Manipuri Shumang is facing dearth of playwright. In order to keep Manipuri Shumang leela in healthy condition, Shumang leela needs energetic playwright like Ranjit Ningthouja. His specialty is his skillful use of comic element in the Shumang leela without disturbing equilibrium of the storyline. Ranjit Ningthouja is young and has a long way ahead of him. For this, Manipuri Shumang leela and audience should proud of him.

* Rajmani Ayekpam wrote this article for The Sangai Express .
This article was posted on January 22 2019 .

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