Journey Through Bangladesh
The Mimes of Hatkoroy
Hasibur Rahman Bilu
There was a time when all forms acting were popular with the Kshatriya clans. Nowadays, except for the month of Boishakh, the actors no longer figure as prominently in the lives of these people. Only once a year, these actors gather at the Boishakhi Fairs of the villages surrounding Hatkoroy area of Bogra's Nondigram Upazilla. Although these actors are capable of performing both classic and contemporary tales, in these fairs the audience is entertained solely with mime acting of passages from the Hindu scriptures of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Without the patronage of the government and society, we are risking not just the extinction of these actors and their trade, we also risk losing a significant body of our cultural inheritance, and the people associated with it. Although mime acting the once the profession of these people, many are today forced to find employment elsewhere. Even then, many still use their own money and time to put on mime acts in Hatkoroy and elsewhere to entertain the masses. Old habits die hard.
For Amullo Chondro Bormon, 42, and Gojendronath Bormon, 45, their family profession is not what it used to be, yet they cannot resists the urge, and habitually find themselves acting at the Boishakhi fairs. At these fairs, it seems as if the wane of the age-old tradition is just an apparition, with thousands of people gathering to watch these plays.
In order for the age-old traditions of mime acting to survive, these actors demand roles in the plays organized by the various public awareness campaigns. They say that this art, which once held the imaginations of the masses in its thrall, can be a very effective medium of communicating with the general population. They realize the importance of letting go of the old ideals, and embracing the present if their art form is to subsist in modern society. Yet, they continue to be ignored.
Although they are not paid for it, during the Boishakhi fairs, the Bormon brothers regularly teach young men of the area the art of mime acting, and the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata, they hope it will help their artform survive.
When asked why they chose stories from Mahabharat or Ramayan, Amullo says that since this is mime acting, actors cannot narrate the plot or explain the actions of the play, and since many know the stories of Mahabharata or Ramayana, it makes it easier to perform.
Mime acting's loss of popularity means that actors no longer don the fanciful costumes of old, but that does not discourage the audience at the Boishakhi fairs. But although the current generation remains loyal to the form despite these impoverished times, financial difficulties are stretching their loyalties to the limit. With proper support, these mime actors are confident that their art will once again reclaim its place in the hearts of the people of the region.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009