Interweaving Performance Cultures
Sudipto Chatterjee is a scholar/playwright/performer/singer/director born in Calcutta, who received his PhD (1999) in Performance Studies from New York University. The Colonial Staged, his book on 19th century Bengali theatre history, was published by Seagull Publishers in 2007. His academic writing has appeared in various international anthologies and journals. Author of sixteen plays in Bengali and English, he has also directed internationally in several languages. In 2005, he wrote and solo-performed Man of the Heart, a performance-research-archiving project, which has been seen at various international venues including Berkeley, New York, Calcutta, Chicago and Los Angeles. In 2010, it was performed in London’s Barbican Centre. As translator, Chatterjee has translated from Sanskrit and Bengali into English. In 2011, he completed the first full English translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s play Bisarjan. Chatterjee is currently Senior Lecturer of Drama at Loughborough University, UK. He is currently also a research partner in the Global Theatre Histories project at Ludwig Maximilians-Universität München.
The Man of the Heart Project
The Man of the Heart project is a practice-as-research undertaking combining performance with field and archival research, based on the life and times of Lalon Phokir, the 19th century Bengali Sufi-Baul saint and song-maker, who is an iconic figure in both Bangladesh and West Bengal, India. Lalon’s music and embodied spiritual practice comprised a mingling of religious sources, confronting fundamentalisms and positing a radical search for divinity within the frame of the human body. Mixing embodied performance with technology, Man of the Heart forms/transforms geo-cultural and historical boundaries. Written and performed by Sudipto Chatterjee, the production is directed by Suman Mukherjee, and documented by Proshot Kalami. Evolving, since its 2005 premiere at UC Berkeley, through phases of fieldwork and resultant restagings in various parts of the world, it now comes together as a print, media and performance project and a digital archive. The central question of this project remains the political issue of representing/preserving a non-Western tradition based on oral communication that is under threat from both religious fundamentalisms and forms of scholarship that freeze orality within the written/printed word, while standing the risk of being sold as ‘exotica’ in the global culture market. With these concerns in view, the project (re-)reads this psychophysical practice by means of performance that is supported by a digital documentation of the tradition that desires not only to preserve it but also to remain critical. Reading against the hegemony of text, Man of the Heart, thus, stands at the nexus where ‘performance’ becomes an index to the ‘archive’.
Project website: www.lalon.org.
- Chatterjee, S., “Kî moté chalibo Murshid? [Which Way, Master?],” (Bengali article on Lalon Phokir), in Robbar Magazine, Kolkata (Calcutta), October, 2010.
- Chatterjee, S., “Man of the Heart: Iterative Possibilities between Anthropology & Theatre,” in F. Mahmud and S. Rahman Choudhury (eds.) Folklore in Context: Essays in Honor of Shamsuzzaman Khan, Dhaka: University Press Limited (Bangladesh), 2010.
- Salomon, C., “The Bauls,” in D. S.Lopez (ed.) Religions of India in Practice, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.
- Salomon, C., “The Cosmogonic Riddles of Lalan Fakir,” in A. Appadurai, F. J. Korom and M. A. Mills (eds.) Gender, Genre and Power in South Asian Expressive Traditions, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991.