In 1963, Kanhailal Heisnam had been expelled from the National School of Drama on for having taken leave without official permission. The real problem, according to scholars like Rustom Bharucha was Kanhailal’s inability to cope with the pressure of being expected to speak, write and work in English and especially in Hindi. These were languages that were unfamiliar and alien to him, just as he was alien in the space where he had arrived, albeit with much hope and optimism, as a student of theatre. Having been expelled, after a period of aimlessness, Kanhailal returned to Imphal finally in 1969 to begin his own work and established his theatre group Kalakshetra Manipur. However, unlike the far-more spectacular Ratan Thiyam, who even went on briefly to become the director of NSD in 1987-1988, Kanhailal remained for a long time on the margins of what was accepted and celebrated as ‘Manipuri ‘theatre practice at the nation’s centre.
Author: Trina Nileena Banerjee
Trina Nileena Banerjee is currently Assistant Professor in Cultural Studies at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta. Her research concerns political theatre, gender and the legacies of the Marxist cultural movement in Bengal. She has also been researching the interfaces between women’s protest movements and political theatre in contemporary Manipur for several years.
She has also been a theatre and film actress, as well as a journalist and fiction writer/poet.