| A scene from the play Tampui Senphu |
A political discourse in drama form is something rare but that is the forte of Highway Theater.
Tampui Senphu, a joint production of the group and people of Sekmai was staged to mark World Theatre Day last Friday at Sekmai in Imphal West district of Manipur.
The play, written and directed by L. Dhanajay, has strong political undertones.
The drama portrays the plight of the Sekmai residents who live along National Highway 39, the lifeline of the state and often bear the brunt of bandhs, blockades and strikes.
The Sekmai folk belong to a section of the Meiteis of Manipur but are included in the Scheduled Caste list of the state.
Dhanajay, who has won the best playwright awards at many Manipuri drama competitions, is known for highlighting the attempts of evil forces to disintegrate the people of the state.
The play drives home the point that harmony and not guns can cure the ills plaguing society.
It underscores the need to find a solution to quota demands in jobs that spawns hatred among various ethnic communities.
The play warns people of the hills and those living in the valley districts not to fall prey to “outside forces” eager to grab land.
The allegory is interestingly depicted. Senphu is a small pot in which a boy named Tampui saves coins. The piggy bank is the symbol of collective wealth of the place.
Rich traders from outside hatch a conspiracy and sow seeds of animosity by instigating the hill people to demand land and instill fears of attacks among the valley inhabitants.
Dhanajay lays emphasis on educating children on the Manipuri way of life. This is reflected in morning prayers, rice pounding, martial arts and the compulsion to learn Meitei Mayek script.
In the low-budget play, the role of Tampui has been brilliantly portrayed by Dhanajay’s eight-year-old son, also called Tampui. Yumlembam Indramani, who plays the role of the trader, is a prominent artiste of Highway Theater.
The artistes speak freely in Sekmai dialect. Highway Theater is one of the groups that produces political plays without any assistance either from the Centre or the state.