Early Life of Heisnam Kanhailal
Heisnam Kanhailal was born in the year 1941 in Imphal.
Career of Heisnam Kanhailal
Heisnam Kanhailal began his career in Manipuri theatre with occasional inputs in student drama and club shows. He joined Tongbras Society Theatre and, later, the Student Artistes Association where his efforts facilitated admission into the National School of Drama in 1968. However, he could not continue there since his creative aspirations did not allow him to prolong confinement in a system. Returning to Imphal, he formed Kalakshetra in 1969, and started to search for an authentic expression through experimentation with Manipuri culture and traditions.
New Forms Introduced by Heisnam Kanhailal
Heisnam Kanhailal introduced his new form of theatrilization on Tamnalai i.e. "Haunting Deities" in 1972, about youth unrest. After a brief association with Badal Sircar in 1973, Heisnam Kanhailal invented a minimalist school of physical expression with lithe movements and playful form, and a distinctively lyrical style of short masterpieces like Pebet in 1975, which travelled to Japan in 1987 and Egypt in 1991. Some of the others can be mentioned as Memoirs of Africa in 1985, Migi shamng i.e. 'Human Cage' in 1991, and Dratipadi in 2000. They made waves in modern, poetic, and ethnic theatre, reflecting the social discontent and human anguish of Manipur's disturbed polity. Viewers saw Pebet, based on a folk story about birds outwitting a cat, as anti-Indian and anti-Hindu. Heisnam Kanhailal took theatre nearer to life almost threatening the boundary line between life and theatre when he invited a hundred woman vendors from the historic Nupi Keithel and inspired them to performing a non-proscenium open-air theatrical production of Nupilan (Women's Agitation) in 1978. Again, in 1979 he encouraged the villagers of Umathel a remote village in the South of Manipur to perform in another non-proscenium production titled Sanjennaha community in Churachandpur in 1980 and staged the play Thanghou Leh Liandou.
Workshops by Heisnam Kanhailal
He has conducted various workshops in various parts of the country such-Kolkata (1980,1991), Delhi (1984, 1987,1997,1998), Mumbai (1993), Chennai (1996) Mysore (1997 ), North Lakhimpur (1990), Guwahati (1999), Agartala(1996), Patna (1990) etc In all he has conducted as many as 20 theatre workshops. And he has also extensively toured the country with his group Kalakshetra.
Heisnam Kanhailal with Kalakshetra
Heisnam Kanhailal has toured abroad and staged his plays with his Kalakshetra. In 1987 he toured to Japan and staged Pebet and Memoirs of Africa at Tokyo, Toga and Ningata. He has also visited Cairo with his theatre group in 1991 under the sponsorship of ICCR, New Delhi and staged his play Migi Sharang in the 3rd Cairo International Festival of Experimental Theatre. The play was adjudged as one of the six best plays. Kalakshetra has done more than thirty productions, most featuring prominently Kanhailal's actress-wife, H. Sabitri. After gaining national attention, Kanhailal undertook individual projects for the Ford Foundation, New Delhi, on acting methodology. This initiated his contact with various groups and theatre people all over the country, spreading his concept of ritualism, non-verbal energy and creativity of the self through workshops and collaborations. Heisnam Kanhailal founded a private school of performance art in 1997.
Awards Received by Heisnam Kanhailal
Heisnam Kanhailal was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in Direction in 1985, given by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama. In Dec, 2011, He was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademy Ratna Award (the Highest ranked and most valued akademi award) - 2011. He was also awarded Padma Shri award by Government of India in 2004 for his work. In the year 2016, Heisnam Kanhailal was awarded Padma Bhushan for his work on Manipur theatre.
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