With a plate of rice in his hands Dr Y Sadananda Singh finds a place to sit on the open ground of the Bharat Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram. He merges easily into the crowd, not showing the slightest sign of being a most reputed mime artiste coming from Manipur. He had come to Thiruvananthapuram two years ago for a theatre fest, but this time he is participating in the first national mime festival happening in Kerala.
“I am doing a mime play called No Budget for the festival,” he says. “We see how sportspersons get lakhs of rupees for their performances. But artistes do not get the same kind of support in the country. The money is very minimal,” he says, explaining the gist of his play. We cannot hire a big hall with that kind of money, Sadananda says. There is not much of a performance space. The salary grants too are pending from two years.
This has never stopped the likes of him from dedicating their whole lives for the stage. “I got attracted to the mime movements – the walking, the climbing. It was in 1978 that I first watched one. And then in the 1980s, I joined workshops. When Niranjan Goswami, one of the pioneers of mime art in the country, came to Manipur, I joined his workshop,” Sadananda says.
A scene from No Budget
It is after 1987 that he began producing his own mime plays. He would also act in those. His took his plays to several international festivals. The plays would talk of contemporary issues that trouble Manipur, like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). “We fight it through our performances. The play on AFSPA was called Mirel Masingkha – The Will of Soul. Another on global warming I did is called Love Your Nature. Then there is Agony, based on Ramayana.”
He compares the sequence in Ramayana to AFSPA. “Dasaratha kills Shravan Kumar without seeing who he was hitting the arrow with (mistaking him for a wild boar). And in AFSPA too, you kill without seeing who is at the other end,” he says.
He has not had any trouble performing it, because “it has got no dialogues, the government can’t ask any questions.”
No Budget will be staged on Saturday at 6.30 pm.