Manipur-based theatre legend Heisnam Kanhailal died in Imphal on Thursday after a brief illness. The 75-year-old Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awardee was the founder-director of theatre group Kalakshetra Manipur. Kanhailal had contributed to the field of experimental theatre for more than 40 years.

The thespian had conducted a number of actor-training workshops across India and collaborated with international theatre groups. He had also undertaken a research project on actor-training methodology with assistance from the Ford Foundation Grant, Nehru Memorial Fellowship and an Emeritus Fellowship. He had collaborated with his wife, Sabitri, to produce many thought-provoking plays.

Kanhailal had successfully portrayed contemporary cultural expression and given theatre his own local perspective. He had bagged several awards, including the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1985, Natya Ratna in 1997 from the Manipuri Sahitya Parishad and the Sangeet Natak Akademi fellowship in 2011, among others. Kanhailal was most famous for his production Tamnalai (The Hunting Spirit), Kabui-Keioiba (Half Man, Half Tiger) and Draupadi.