Taking cue from newspaper reports

Bilingual Act

Taking cue from newspaper reports

After having settled in seats, audiences mentally prepare themselves to witness a serious play. Presuming that the events are based on newspaper reports (owing to the title of the play), the adjective ‘seriousness’ gets attached to it.

The sequence of events, however, sets the viewers on a laughter ride by showing hilarious acts of young girls and boys who come for auditions of a film role. Such was the opening of 9 Days Newspaper which was recently staged at Shri Ram Centre auditorium, as part of the ongoing Bharat Rang Mahotsav.

The bilingual play in Manipuri and English, directed by Joy Maisnam was based on a devised script from newspaper content, collected over a period of nine days. The story  revolves around the character of Robindro, a filmmaker who wants to make a movie about restlessness in the society. But after his views become public, he faces opposition from NGOs, public and underground groups. All these threaten him to the extent that one day he loses his entire family when his home is bombed.

The story thus switches from emotions of comedy to pathos. Robindro, however, retains his strength and does not react. He stands still in silence and questions the meaning of freedom and human rights. It is through this manner of presentation that the director questions the audiences, the meaning of these two words for if there is no freedom in the country then what is the purpose of calling it an independent nation?

Performed by Treasure Art Association of Imphal, Manipur, the play raises pertinent questions about the condition of art and artists in the north-eastern state of Manipur. “Art, be it for aesthetic or commercial purpose, receives threats from underground groups,” informs Joy. “The terror of these groups is so much that even government employees are not able to escape from paying money to them!”

The one hour long play, emphasises other issues too, such as the role of civil societies and regressive mindsets. “Every child born in Manipur dreams of becoming an actor some day, irrespective of their personality or the ability to act. So the opening part of the play was an irony on this thinking of people.

Also, in Manipuri society, people read newspaper but do not get charged by what is happening around. To me, the public must be sensitive enough to take a stand if anything wrong is happening rather than wait for the NGOs or civil societies to educate them about it,” opines Joy.

He also adds the element of politician in the play who asks people to not to resort to violence but the latter is too furious to listen. While the content may have been interesting, the style of repeated dialogue delivery failed to create an impact on the audience.

What works for the play is the depiction of serious moments especially the one where a mother cries over the dead body of her child which is delivered brilliantly by the characters and is spine-chilling!

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