An Interview with Elangbam Nigol Heishnam Ongbi Indu Devi
Interview - Film Academy Manipur (FAM) *
Elangbam Nigol Heishnam Ongbi Indu Devi was baptised to theatre in her early age. By the time, she was 12 years old, she had acted in a play in her school for the first time. From that day, as a young theatre artist, she has come a long way and today she is a well known personality in the world of theatre and film.
Born in 1949 to Elangbam Ibomcha and Elangbam Ongbi Madhumati Devi, Elangbam Indu Devi is married to Heishnam Tomba Singh of Keishamthong Elangbam Leikai. With active support from her husband, she still continues to act today. After a long stint in theatre, she also works in films.
Following is the excerpt of her views expressed on the occasion of being awarded the 'R J Films Special Award' for 2011-12. ( See Photo Gallery for this award ceremony here ) .
FAM: Echema congratulation on being awarded the 'special award for 2011-12' by the RJ Film Division. We also share your happiness.
Indu: Yes, I am happy for being selected for the award. At the same time, not only me, but also all the artist should be happy and proud of the achievement. I consider the award as an acknowledgement of the selfless contribution to the field rather than strive for name and fame. In short, I work with love and passion towards the arts and not for awards.
FAM: Echema, allow me to put the questions in two sections, first, on theatre and the second on film. So, would you first highlight on your formative period in theatre and the theatre groups that you initially worked with?
Indu: Before I started working with a particular theatre group, when I was about 12 years old, I first took part in a drama staged in my school. I forgot the name of the play. Later on I joint Elangbam Joykumars 'Manipur Touring Drama Party'.
FAM: Echema, tell us whether there were any reservations from the family on you in becoming a theatre artist? Further, let us make aware of the different teachers under whom you have trained?
Indu: When I became a theatre artist, my father had already passed away but my mother had a taste for theatre, so, she did not express any reservation in me becoming a theatre artist. However, during the initial days, my maternal grandmother had some reservations. After seeing my interest, later on, she also did not raise any objections. Teachers that had taught me are Oja Elangbam Jaychandra, Oja Ningthoujam Tombi and Oja Thambal. In addition to them, from time to time, I went to other renowned teachers of theatre seeking their advice with respect to a particular play and from different directors under whom I have acted.
FAM: Kindly dwell on Echema's journey in the world of theatre?
Indu: In the beginning at Manipur Touring Drama Party, I acted in around 10 plays - Punsi Pamel (Life Long Tree), Khudongthiba Chekla (Distressed Bird), Pon-gi Chekla (Bird in the Cage) etc. Later on at Manipur Dramatic Union (MDU) acted in Yaripok ki Thambalnu (Thambalnu of Yairipok), Chahi Taret Khuntakpa (Seven Year Devastation), Maangluraba Mani (Lost Jewel). After that I was introduced to MDU by Kangabam Birbabu, himself an MDU artist. Though I remain an MDU artist, from time to time, I acted in the production of Panthoibi Nartya Mandir and also took part in theatre festivals.
FAM: Echema, Can you shed light on the various recognitions you got as a theatre artist?
Indu: Let me begin from the award I received outside the state. In 1979, All India Short Play Competition was held in Allahabad. In that competition, I was awarded the 'Second Best Actress' for Chekhairarabi Malem (Crack Earth), a production of Panthoibi Nartya Mandir. The All India Short Play Competition and Theatre Seminar was held in Mumbai, 1980, I got the 'Best Actress' award for Matambakta (On her Lap), it was also a production of Panthoibi Nartya Mandir.
Further, in the same theatre festival in 1984, I was awarded 'Second Best Actress' for Bok Bodhada (Annihilation of Bob), it was produced by Theatre Centre. And in the same competition (the 18th edition) held in Allahabad, I won the 'Best Actress' for the Manipur Dramatic Union production 'Harichandra versus Vishwamitra'. In addition, I was honoured with 'Natya Bhusan' in the 'Utkal Yuva Sankrit Sangya' held in Orissa.
In the 'Short Play Competition for Creative Direction', organised by Manipur Theatre Centre in 2002, I was awarded the 'Second Best Actress' for the MDU production Mikapthoklo (Awake). Earlier, in 1974 the same organisation had honoured me on Asian Theatre Day. These are some of the awards or recognitions that come to my mind, thought I won awards in many of the theatre completions held in Manipur.
FAM: The next set of questions relate to Films. In how many films have you acted so far? And which was the first film you acted?
Indu: The first film where I acted was in Brojendro gi Luhongba (Brojendro's Wedding) in Celluloid. In digital, Mityengdugi Wangmada (Beyond the Eyesight) was the first one. Combining both the media (digital/celluloid), I have acted in approximately 50 films.
FAM: Would you elaborate on the differences between film and theatre?
Indu: Theatre is a dialogue play. Once you are in the stage, you cannot have a wrong movements. In film, during the shooting the undesirable acts can be re-enacted or repeated. But in terms of acting, they are the same.
FAM: Could you recollect some of the films in which you have acted?
Indu: I have forgotten most of the name, though some are Thengmankhre Thabalse (Late Moonlight), Lengdraba Lund (Immovable Asset), Basantagi Nongalamdai (Dawn of Spring), Yaiskulgi Pakhang Angoba (Crazy Bachelor of Yashkul), (all in digital), Saphabi, Sagol Sanabi (Playing Horse), Surjakantagi Thambal (Lotus of Surjakanta) (in celluloid)
FAM: Echema, some of the awards you have won for acting in films?
Indu: In the 7th Manipur State Film Festival, 2010, I won the 'Best Special Jury Award' for Basantagi Nongalamdai (Dawn of Spring). Later, in the 6th RJ Film Vision Award 2011-12, the 'Best Supporting Actress (female)' was conferred to me.
FAM: Would like you to give some advice to the upcoming young actors and actress?
Indu: To the upcoming artist, I would like to convey that the art should be pursued properly with a clear understanding of all the values associated with it. Feeling of 'I am the best' should be shed and should try to remain humble to others all the time.
FAM: Could you share with us some of your memorable moment both in theatre and films?
Indu: My most memorable moment if I have to say shall be the moment when I was declared as the Best Actress for Matambagta (On her Lap), directed by Hijam Shyamdhani, in the All India State Play Competition held in Mumbai. Reason for the happiness was that established theatre actress such as Smita Patel and Sarika were part of the contender for the award. Another reason is that I directed the play Matambagta (On her Lap) and participated in 2009 in the 9th All India Drama Festival held in Gurgaon, representing Film Academy Manipur, and won the Second Best Direction along with the Second Best Production. The Second Best Actress was also won by Shanti for the same play.
FAM: What are the other productions that are in the pipe line?
Indu: I direct plays in the Nupi Sumang Lila. In addition, from time to time, I also give direction to theatre plays at Tubi leima Artist Association, Kongba, Humayun and other women's Lila.
FAM: It is an honour to have a word with Echema, wish you a long and happy journey?
Indu: It is a privilege for me also to have a word with FAM that is working very hard for the betterment and promotion of film artist and pray to God for its long life.