Radio Play : Popular entertainment and social awareness media

Dilip Mayengbam
Contd from previous issue
To commemorate the Centenary Celebration of the Manipur’s last war of independence, Imphal station broadcast eight plays in 1991 beginning from January and ending on 13th August under the caption Manipurgi Aroiba Ningtam Lal (Manipur’s Last War of Independence), scripts of which were written by Thoudam Nodia, Khaidem Bihari, Takhellambam Ranachandra, MK Binodini and Arambam Samarendra. Noted scholar Ningthoukhongjam Khelchandra was also present in the conceptual planning stage. It was a hit. Noted playwright Khundrakpam Brajachand’s play Mathangi Yenningthada was also a very nice social play. Keisam Priyokumar’s award winning short story–Nongdi Tarakkhidre (Rain didn’t come) which deals with the ethnic clash and its pathetic fallout was also a hit. This play was also made into a feature film by Ningthouja Lancha. Dr Zibhago a Nobel Prize winning novel of Boris Pasternak was adapted into a radio serial by Aramabam Ongbi Memchoubi and it was very well received by the listening public. Khetri Bira’s novel-Phirep was also produced as a 13 part radio serial. Reputed Theatre houses The Chorus Repertory Theatre of Shri Ratan Thiyam and Kalakshetra of Shri Heisnam Kanhailal were also invited to present radio plays. Moirangthem Inao’s play Nongallabasu Thaballei Leinam was also a hit with full of comedy. Radio serial actually started in 1969 with GC Tongbra’s Taibangjambagi Imung it continued for more than 100 episodes i.e. around two years. It was a hit, very popular comedy serial. The next longest serial was the science serial Taibang Yaol which started in 1991 and continued upto 1994. It was a dramatized serial play based on Human Evolution targeted for students but general public listened it more interestingly. It was a very popular serial broadcast every Sunday with more than 180 episodes.
Nongmaithem Ibopishak successfully produced noted poet Mahakavi Anganghal’s novel-Jehera as a radio serial, Prof. Nnongmaithem Tombi adapted it for radio. Ningthoujam Lokendrajeet produced two major radio serials with more than 20 episodes each- Khamba Thoibee of Hijam Anganghal, adaptation-Sarangthem Bormani and Chahi Taret Khuntakpa by Dr Rajen Toijamba. Former is the legendary love story of Khamba and Thoibee, the latter is the seven years devastation of Manipur by the Burmese, a very important historical event.
Adhikarimayum Gitchandra also produced UR Ananthamurthy’s novel Sanskar as a 13 part serial with radio adaptation by Yumlembam Ibomcha. Gitchandra won 2nd prize in Akashvani Awards-2013 for the play Langlentombi by Chanam Kunjo, another 2nd prize in 2015 for the play Eigi Cycle Nungsibi by Jiban Heisnamba and a merit certificate in 2016 for the play Hiroshimagi Wainu Pareng by Dr Khangembam Shamungou. It’s the case history of a little girl who had suffered radiation effect of the atom bomb and died in the hospital.
All the radio plays are not just only for entertainment, they always try give a message of social awareness for having a peaceful and happy life.
The first Akashvani Award winner was Nongmaithem Pahari for his musical documentary Ghatgati Hai in 1976, script by Mahendra Sharma. It won a Special prize.Last but not the least a very famous comedy play under the title-IPOM was introduced during 1969-70 by inviting the noted comedians of Sumang Leela who were Takhellambam Chaoba, Mayang Imphal Tombi and Oinam Babu. It was a superhit programme and people anxiously waited for it. The title IPOM was given by Khumanthem Praksh, signature tune was composed by Chandam Gopal and produced by Nongmaithem Sudhir. It continued for a long time. They performed on stage also under the same trade name.
Conclusion: As the performance space of theatre artists are becoming squeezed day by day, radio play and Manipuri digital films are the only option where they can perform. Besides money, they want their performance space. All India Radio, Imphal is giving them ample scope to perform. The State Council of Educational Research and Training is also producing dramatized educational programmes for broadcast in radio. Now, the Department of Education (Schools) is also joining such productions. Fee for writing script and performance is also reasonably good. But still there is a need for good script writers. Theatre groups and Literary organizations can organize workshops in collaboration with the Sahitya Akademi for script writing to bring out some young writers as the future writers of plays.
According to a report released by UNESCO on the World Radio Day-2013, 75 % of the households in the developing countries listen to radio. There are around 44,000 radio stations world wide. Persons of the age group 25-54 listen 80% of the time of radio broadcast medium wave or FM. Improvement in farming is seen among 50% of the farmers. There are more than 5000 community radio stations in Thailand. Indonesia and Phillippines also have similar radio listening pattern. Radio news is considered as the most reliable one. This means that radio is still popular among the people.
Some of the radio plays of AIR, Imphal uploaded on Youtube is found to be listened by more than one lakh people. Nongphadok Lakpada (10 months) : 1.3 lakh, Nongallabasu Thaballei Leinam (1 year): 1.1lakh, Mathangi Yenningthada (1 year): 2.1 lakh, Mou Ahum Lanpham Ahum (4 months): 1.2 lakhs. It shows that still people love to listen radio plays.
Present fee for artists under the fee structure of  2013 is as follows in rupees: Top grade- 5000; A-grade-3400; B-high grade- 2000; B-grade- 1300. For authors: 5600 for 60’; 4000 for 30’; 3000 for 15’; Translation- 4500 for 60’; 3300 for 30’; 1700 for 15’; Adaptation from novel/short story- 75% of the original fee; royalty for original author whose work is adapted- 50% of the original fee. For National Programme of Play: author’s fee is- 16,000 for 60’; 11,000 for 30’. For serial play-4000 per episode, for 13 episodes = 52,000. For producers (on hiring): 7000 for 60’; 4500 for 30’; 2000 for 15’; serials-2000x13= 26,000.
References: 1. Tim Crook, Radio Drama: Theory and Practice, Routledge, London, 1999, 2. Surya Sarkar, Kolkata Betar Natak , Special issue of AIR, Kolkata, 2002., 3. Manas Pratim Das, Radio Play: Kolkata Story, Global Media Journal-Indian Edition, December 2013, vol-4, No. 2, 4. Dilip Mayengbam, Souvenir: 40 Years of Public Service Braodcasting 1963-2003 , AIR, Imphal, 2003., 5. Personal conversation with Yengkhom Jugeswori Devi, Fist Announcer of AIR, Imphal.
This paper was presented in the one day theatre  seminar Organised by   : The Royal Theatrical Club (R.T.C), Imphal and   sponsored by Directorate of Art & Culture Government of Manipur held on 25-10-2020 at Elangbam Leikai Chingjel  Naral Panganba Community Hall.