director, designer, musician, painter and actor, Ratan Thiyam is
one of the most important and influential theater makers at work
in the international performance scene. Renowned for its
disciplined performance practice, spectacular aural and visual
esthetic, and potent thematic explorations, Thiyam's work has
placed him in the company of such figures as Suzuki, Brook, and
A son of Manipuri dance masters, for a time, Thiyam studied
painting before turning to writing. He published his first of
six novels in 1961 at the age of 22, wrote poetry and reviews.
Writing led him to theater.
His plays have traveled, from Aryan Theater, GM Hall, Jawaharlal
Nehru Dance Academy (JNMDA) to the Shriram Center for Arts, New
Delhi with the group's first overseas break coming in with their
trip to Greece. Yes, we all know that Yanni had performed at the
Acropolis or the Herrod Atticus. But actually Ratan had been
there much before, staging an Indian play in Manipuri attire
before a record audience of 10,000 Greeks.
watching his "Urubhangam"- a drama critic in Calcutta wrote that
standards of Indian theater would one day be measured along the
lines of "Urubhangam". His "Chakravyuh" was to follow soon
engulfing audiences worldwide into that ancient Indian battle
formation from which there is no escape.
His other talents came to light in the opening ceremony of the
India Festival at Moscow. TV watchers in India and the then USSR
watched with amazement when the Manipuri Moibung's (Conch) "Dhani"
reverberated across the Red Square prompting Raisa Gorbachev to
ask for an encore. Yes, that was Ratan Thiyam's imagination at
work and what might have been just another blowing session for
the "Moibung Khongba" or the Conch-player, it was a giant leap
for Manipuri culture.
Having traversed the globe from Moscow to New York, he recently
returned home with the New York Times describing him as a
"Genius". The honor from the city of Paris and New Delhi in the
form of the Padmashri was all there before, but this is
"I started reading plays, besides writing reviews. I felt the
need for professional training." he says. In 1971, he enrolled
at the National School of Drama in Delhi, gaining a reputation
as a powerful actor and director. In 1976, he returned to
Manipur and founded CRT. Except for a two-year stint as Director
of NSD in the early 80's, Manipur became and has remained both
the physical and esthetic foundation for his work.