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Eminent art critic draws attention to Manipur violence at Pune lecture | Pune News


At the Prof Ram Bapat Memorial Lecture in Pune on Saturday, eminent art critic Samik Bandyopadhyay shed light on the violence engulfing Manipur since May.

“When I think of Manipur now, the pain, the horror effect, I can’t help but share all this with you, take this opportunity to talk in the country, with our voices being stifled all the time,” he said at SM Joshi Hall in Navi Peth.

Bandyopadhyay also highlighted Manipur’s Bengali links, saying men and women from the region came to Kolkata for higher education.

“When the Manipuri Maharaja converted to Vaishnavism, which came to them from Bengal, in the 18th century, he changed the original Manipuri Meitei script to the Bangla script. So, people like theatre directors Ratan Thiyam and the late Heisnam Kanhailal couldn’t read the Meitei script at all but only the Bangla script. For 200 years, the script had been taken away from them and they had taken it in their stride as they trusted the Maharaja. They struggled over the last years and went back to the Meitei script,” he said.

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He added that Manipur, when it gained statehood in 1972, was “a modern, contemporary state but deeply rooted in its own culture”. Plays were translated and “a new Manipuri theatre reached out to us”. He spoke about taking Manipuri theatre directors to watch plays by Shombhu Mitra and Utpal Dutt and visiting Manipur for a literary conference where he watched the works of the great Heisnam Kanhailal. “Manipuri plays were not like Mohan Rakesh’s, Badal Sircar’s or Vijay Tendulkar’s plays but original and different,” he said.

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Bapat was an intellectual whose knowledge and interests covered the spectrum of political science, sociology, literature, theatre, cinema, journalism, grassroots politics and fine arts. Previous speeches at the lecture series, instituted in his honour in 2013, have been given by Sadanand Menon, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Shiv Visvanathan, K Satchidanandan, TM Krishna, Prachi Deshpande and Mallika Sarabhai. “We talk about many divisions in the world today like economic, social, caste and class. But, the division between intellectuals and common people is not acknowledged. Prof Ram Bapat tried to bridge this gap and this lecture series was an attempt to continue his legacy,” said Makrand Sathe, a playwright, who, with Gajanan Paranjape, inaugurated this lecture series. Bandyopadhyay’s talk, the tenth and last in the series, was titled, “The Observer in the Performance Space.”

Sharing his journey, Bandyopadhyay spoke about resigning as a teacher when an institute allowed cheating and becoming an editor focused on the sanctity of the printed word. “Every printed word has to be right, has to be correct,” he said. “I am speaking words, but I can’t help using my hands, my face.”





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