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Renowned Manipuri Thespian Heisnam Kanhailal Passes Away at 75

Kanhailal’s political play ‘Pebet’ styled to the tune of oral Manipuri folklores was a revolutionary production.

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The founder of Kalakshetra Manipur, Kanhailal has been actively involved in threatre for the last 40 years.

Seasoned thespian from Manipur Heisnam Kanhailal passed away at the age of 75, on Thursday morning, at his Langol Tarung residence.

The founder of Kalakshetra Manipur, Kanhailal has been actively involved in threatre for the last 40 years in different roles of a playwright, director and also an actor.

In India, where mainstream languages and regions have a dominating presence in theatre, Kanhailal employed a very indigenous outlook of Manipuri culture, and infused it in his theatre production.

His famous political play Pebet, styled to the tune of oral Manipuri folklores, was a revolutionary production.

Sabitri Heisnam, Kanhailal’s wife, in the play ‘Draupadi’. (Photo Courtesy: <a href="http://kalakshetramanipur.org/index.php/picture-gallery/draupadi/draupadi-4-2/#main">Kalakshetra Manipur</a>)
Sabitri Heisnam, Kanhailal’s wife, in the play ‘Draupadi’. (Photo Courtesy: Kalakshetra Manipur)

The play Draupadi which was only staged in 2000, based on a story by the renowned Bengali writer Mahasweta Devi, stunned its audience by its bold political take, so much so that the show was stopped in Manipur.

The character of Draupadi which was played by Sabitri Heisnam was shamed for her sexual performance.

Kanhailal is a recipient of several awards like the state Award For Theatre, the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award 1985, Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellow 2011, META Life Time Achievement Award 2015 and the prestigious Padma Shri in 2003, among others.

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