Pantomime is a kind of solo performance in which the performer conveys the story through gestures, facial expressions and body language without any dialogue. It is an independent performing art. The origin of pantomime may be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome where it used to be a solo performance. Pantomime developed in England in the 18th century. The early pantomime would be by a lone performer, and lasting for a few minutes. The pantomimist would wear black tights and his face would be painted white. The subject matter was usually slight and mainly of entertaining nature. Though generally entertaining, some of these pantomimes touched upon serious subjects.
It is a powerful medium to educate people in a fun filled environment. Using this art form in an intelligent way, we can reform the society, in making it free from political illiteracy, superstitions, diseases, and any other social ills. It is true that leftists towards the end of its 34 years rule did much damage to education, industry of West Bengal, but initially, they did many good things in 60s/70s, like raising general political consciousness, and for the first time, making people aware of their rights and vocal on it. There used to be dramas enacted on every street corners in the evenings, on political themes, and on a larger scale , there would be jatras like ‘ vietnam’ by Utpal Dutta, the net effect was tremendous—a leftist wave swayed people of West Bengal, especially, those in the middle and working class. The net result was that soon after leftists came to power, and ruled for 34 years. SUCH IS THE POWER OF THEATRE. Pantomine, is also a form of theatre, and can be employed to reform the society.
Pantomime can be employed to change the present society, for, its colorful presentation will be accepted by people. Currently, terrorism, religious fanaticism, religious divide, corruption are spoiling the society from the grass root level, reform measure is to be employed as a bottom up , rather than a top down manner. At such a juncture, pantomime, and other theatre form. will be effective because this may generate people’s movement at the bottom itself, just it was done in the seventies to inflame the leftist movement.
Here, comes the role of my friend, Shri Chanchal Roy. He is a pantomimist of great reputation in entire West Bengal. Unless I say something about him here, his importance in the field cannot be understood. He was born on 4th January, 1948 in Kolkata. He did his Masters on theatre from Rabindra Bharati University. He is a writer also. In the seventies, he wrote a play, “AMI AAJ RATE GALAI DORI DEBO”, in which he himself and alone, played all 16 different characters in it. He is not a theatre activist only, he has multifaceted faculties—he is a singer, actor, director, elocutionist, recitationist, anchor and a writer. In both state and national level, he was many times adjudged as the best actor and director. His work has been recognized and engaged by cultural bodies of state and central Govt. He performed as a judge in many theater competitions, both in state and national level. He continues to be a professional performer even at this age of 72. His theater activities has kept him physically fit. He has school to train young children in the art of recitation, and pantomime. On an intimate talk with him, I have the feeling that his commercial success is not commensurate with the talent he possess. I advised him to contact Milon Mancha, so that Shri Chanchal Roy, Pantomimist, may use their platform to reach out to larger audience, in my knowledge MM encourage everybody to flourish. Milon Mancha is well known in Mumbai.
I personally feel children should be taught theatre at very young age. This helps grow right personality, removes shyness, introvertness; makes bold, courageous, and independent. All of us play the role of a manager or a salesman throughout our life in any capacity we live our life, personalities groomed thus at a young age is bound to bring success in later life. Academic excellence in Indian context amounts to zero achievement if you don’t have right personality quality. I would suggest that pantomime/ theatre, may be included in the school syllabus for proper development of personality of our future citizens.