• Bahurupi: a family of many faces

    Bahurupi artists in West Bengal easily metamorphose into different characters during a performance, but are finding it hard to change their work roles with changing times

    Ankan Roy and Sagarika Basu/People's Archive of Rural India

    November 1, 2019

    Image courtesy Ankan Roy and Sagarika basu/ People's Archive of Rural India


    Watch the film: Bahurupi artists metamorphose into multiple characters

    “We have to hold on to Bahurupi to survive.  We don’t have any agricultural land to be able to do farming,” says Raju Chowdhury. Bahurupi artists like him are performers who enact multiple religious and mythological roles.

    This film features the Chowdhury family – the parents and children are all Bahurupi – from Bishaypur village in Birbhum district, who travel to various villages and towns to perform a sequence of skits over several days.

    This once-popular folk art form is now vanishing in rural West Bengal. Its practitioners have for generations earned modest amounts from their performances. But because audiences now increasingly prefer other forms of entertainment, the younger generations from Bahurupi families are being forced out of the profession. Many, like the Chowdhurys, don’t have any other means of earning a living.

    Chidam Chowdhury dons the elaborate make-up of a Bahurupi performer assisted by his father Raju Image courtesy Ankan Roy and Sagarika Basu / People's Archive of Rural India

    Mala Chowdhury is the star performer of a family still dependent on this art form for a living Image courtesy Ankan Roy and Sagarika Basu / People's Archive of Rural India

    A version of the film featured here was made by Ankan Roy (camera) and Sagarika Basu (editing) as their documentary project in 2015 at Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan.

    Ankan Roy has a master’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan. Sagarika Basu, a 2016 PARI intern, is also a former student of Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan. She is now an editorial intern at 24 Ghanta, a Kolkata-based news channel.

    This article was originally published in People's Archive of Rural India on January 20, 2017.

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