Feed the word "mime" into any search engine and the first prompt is "dying art". Delhi's Swapan Kumar Sarkar has been saving the dying art of mime for over two decades. Sarkar has grown up with this art. His mother Lilabati Sarkar is a sculptor and she has made idols of various Hindu deities all her life. Lilabati is 95 years old now and still continues to sculpt idols of goddesses.
Sarkar started to mime even before he knew it was what it was. He was born in 1966, in Dhaltitha, a small village in Basirhat, West Bengal. His sense of arts was imbibed from his mother. Sarkar started learning art at the age of ten and after schooling he joined the Indian College of Arts & Draftsmanship that's affiliated with Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta. In 1985, he stumbled into group shows and hall shows and after three years he took his training from Padmashree Niranjan Goswami who is also the founder of Indian Mime Theatre.
Sarkar carried the legacy of the fading art, and happened to arrive in Delhi in May, 1998. He said, "I still remember the date, it was May 29 and the temperature was as high as 47 degree celsius," He had come to popularise the mime art in the Capital, he said.
Mime is an imitating art where the mummer uses body language, gestures, and expressions to tell a story. Explaining the standard makeup and costume protocol used for mime art Sarkar said, "A mummer gets his face painted in white colour as a base, the lips and the eyebrows are painted in black, which highlights the expressions, while the white base reflects light," he added.
Referring to a quote by Marcel Marceau 'Mime makes the invisible, visible and the visible, invisible', Sarkar said mummers hide their own expressions while expressing the story through their expressions. "We are not just imitators, we are creators," he said.
Sarkar is equally skilled in painting and sculpting. His family has been his backbone, he credits his wife 'Piyali' and his daughter 'Swaralipi', who have supported him throughout. From the past 20 years Sarkar has been organising workshops in colleges and schools, has trained over hundred of students, and has been a performing artist for over three decades. "I earn my bread and butter through painting and mimimg," said Sarkar.
Sarkar has earned people's hearts and their respect. He said, "Everyone can earn money, but an artist has the capability to win hearts and earn respect along with his livelihood."
Sarkar is credited for a ten feet by 7.5 feet wall painting in Jaipuria Institute of Management, Noida. Sarkar is a contemporary artist who canvases his wide world of imaginations through his brush and expressions. He has staged his art on Doordarshan and has also choreographed Republic Day parade's tableau themed on 'Shanti Sandesh' in 2001.
He has performed in various cities all over the subcontinent on various social themes like pollution, global warming, child labour and foeticide. Sarkar forms his own scripts and is also a member of Mumbai Script Writer's Association. Sarkar made a short film 'Fire', based on one of his scripts three years ago, in which he had shot the sequences and directed the film.
There is a Saraswati goddess's idol at the entrance of his house that has been sculpted by Sarkar. His house is studded with artistic wonders that can boggle anyone's mind.
Sarkar has been living to save the fading art form of mime. To know more about this dying art form, catch Swapan Kumar Sarkar in CitySpidey's 'Batein' next week.