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ISKCON Answer to Janmashtami Spoilers

by Khelen Thokchom

Posted September 1, 2007


Foiled by blast last year, drama guru lines up same play at same venue.

Imphal, Aug. 23: Hanjabam Nandakishore Sharma has spent the better part of his 90 years staging plays in which good triumphs over evil.

Last year, on Janmashtami, he failed for the first time to show that evil never wins. An explosion at the Iskcon temple in Imphal on that day not only killed and maimed people watching a Ras Lila performance, but also sabotaged Sharma's dream project - a play on the Vaishnavite movement in Manipur. Exactly a year later, on September 4, the drama guru will be back with the same play at the same venue, as much to make a statement to the terrorists as to prove that good never loses.

Revered for his grasp of traditional Manipuri drama, Sharma runs a government-supported acting school that follows the age-old guru-shishya parampara. As another Janmashtami draws nearer, the one thing that he keeps telling himself is that the show must go on this time.

"Staging the play will mean that the people have won and the militants have failed. They forced us to postpone the play by a year, and that is the best militants can do," Sharma told The Telegraph today.

Sharma was on the front row of the audience when the bomb blast occurred last year, killing four persons instantly and leaving over 50 wounded. A few foreigners were among the wounded.

The drama guru winced as he recalled the ghastly sight. "I was right in the front of the makeshift mandap where the Ras Lila was in progress. Suddenly, a loud bang shook all of us. I escaped unhurt, but the man sitting next to me was seriously wounded."

Although memories of that incident have not faded, Sharma is happy that his artistes have conquered their fear and are determined to complete what they could not last Janmashtami.

The genre he specialises in, Goura Lila, is a dance drama on the life of Chaitanyadev, who migrated from Goura village of Bengal over two centuries ago and popularised Vaishnavite culture in Manipur. Rehearsals are being held regularly at Sharma's home in Wangkhei Ningthem Pukhri Mapal. The art and culture department gives the guru a monthly remuneration of Rs 2,000. Four of his senior artistes get Rs 500 each and the accompanist is paid Rs 900.

Sharma hopes he can pass the baton to a worthy successor someday. Click Here