New York beckons Manipur director

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  • Published 4.08.08

Imphal, Aug. 3: Veteran Manipuri actress Yengkhom Roma Devi proved her mettle as a director when she got an invitation for her documentary, Jagoida Kathoklabi Suryamukhi Devi (Suryamukhi Devi, Doyen of Manipuri Dance), from the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC) for its dance festival to be held in New York from August 18 to 21.

The documentary, about 23-minute long, is based on the life and works of Suryamukhi, 62, one of the leading exponents of Manipuri classical dance who had performed abroad.

“Screening of your film would help the festival raise awareness about Manipuri dance and the contribution of dancers from Manipur who represented India at various international dance festivals,” Prachi Dalal of the IAAC said in his letter to Roma Devi.

After retiring in 2006 as a production assistant of a ballet unit of JN Manipur Dance Academy, Suryamukhi Devi now teaches dance at Research Centre for Manipuri Performing Arts founded by her at her Keishamp residence in Imphal West district.

She is one of few who had learnt Manipuri classical dance directly from Guru Amubi who designed and developed the famous Ras Lila — the love story of Krishna and Radha — to its present form. She performed Manipuri classical dance in various parts of the world and had a stint as an artiste of the Little Ballet Troupe of Bombay in the 1950s.

The IAAC’s dance festival is the first of its kind in New York that seeks to bring together dancers who will exchange views on movements, techniques, styles and most of all, draw inspiration from the Indian subcontinent.

It will feature artistes from India and other South Asian countries.

Besides Roma Devi’s film on Suryamukhi Devi, the organisers also invited famous filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan of Kerala for his film on Kathakali dance.

Though it is a dance festival, the organisers have invited the two films as they could not find artistes for Manipuri classical dance and Kathakali.

Though Roma Devi is a household name in Manipur, this is her first directorial venture. She is also the producer of the film commissioned by the Doordarshan Kendra, Imphal. M.K. Binodini Devi, a member of the royal family of Manipur, is the scriptwriter. The film was screened in the Mumbai International Film Festival 2008.

“It is an honour for Manipuri classical dance and also Manipuri documentary film. I do not know how to express my feelings on getting the invitation. I am an artiste and this is the first film I have directed. I am very happy,” said Roma Devi, who retired as a joint director of the Manipur Assembly in 2006.