He is a sweeper at R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital. He was also one of the very few Indians who performed at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan. Now, however, it’s the Sixth International Festival of Non-Verbal Arts — backed by a Unesco wing and set to come off a few days from now in Calcutta — that is taking up most of this mime artist’s time.
Meet Ashok Chatterjee, the man with a bio-data that traverses the unclean environs of a state-run hospital in the city to Incheon, in South Korea. From R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital to the greatest show on earth — the football World Cup — to a Unesco-backed international festival may be a long haul, but Chatterjee has taken it all in his stride.
What he has not been able to take in his stride is the attitude of the state government to the festival that will feature mime, traditional Indian dance-forms, puppetry and performances on stilts, and host teams from India, South Korea, Japan and the United Kingdom. All the past five editions have taken place in Bengal but the seventh— after the one this December — may slip out of the state because of the “absolute lack of cooperation” from the government.
“From getting halls to the marketing aspect of a festival of this magnitude, everything is so difficult here,” Chatterjee complained on Sunday. “A state-run hall comes cheaper but one has to live with the tension that it can be taken away at a day’s notice to suit the government’s purpose,” he added, explaining why Delhi or Chandigarh or Mumbai could be more hassle-free.
This year, Chatterjee’s search for a stage has ended at a private culture-cum-entertainment centre off the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. “An artiste should have the mental peace to hone his art,” Chatterjee said. “But here, even a few days before the actual festival, my plate of problems is full with the organisational aspects.”
Chatterjee, however, seemed confident that the festival itself would make all the trouble worth it. The 1998 edition — also organised by Chatterjee’s Body Language School and the Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre of Unesco (ACCU) — was the most “successful”, with representations from 11 nations. But “quality is what matters”, asserted Chatterjee, and the December fest promises quite a fare — an open-air performance (Street Theatre on Stilts) by a troupe from the UK, a feature on The Clown Mime by the Korean team, the relationship between music and mime by the Japanese, besides several features that have wowed audiences from Germany to Thailand.