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Life and times of Lalan Fakir on stage

A childhood fascination for the songs of Lalan Fakir led two friends — film and theatre director Suman Mukhopadhyay and Sudipto Chatterjee — to go in search of his story.

Their labour of love resulted in Man of the Heart, a research-based solo performance based on the life, times and philosophy of Lalan Fakir. The production — performed by Chatterjee and directed by Mukhopadhyay — has travelled the world and will be performed in the city on Sunday.

The performance, which fuses live music with video and recorded audio, has been performed across the world since 2005 — Berkeley, New York, Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Rome.... As part of the India tour, it will be performed, apart from Calcutta, at the Ranga Shankara in Bangalore.

“Fifteen years back, in 1997, we had gone to Kushtia (in Bangladesh) in search of Lalon’s music,” said Mukhopadhyay. “Our experience there made us feel that we should do something. Finally we got a fellowship, thanks to the University of California, and Sudipto came up with a brief outline of a play. That script got enacted before the students, teachers and friends at Berkeley as Man of the Heart — A Work in Progress. The response we got encouraged us to do more research and continue with developing the play further.”

This “development” has been a continuous process, says Mukhopadhyay. Versions of the production that the city saw in 2007 and 2008 were “quite different from what Calcuttans will see this time”, Chatterjee added.

The duo consulted scholars on Lalan and the Baul-Fakir tradition like Sudhir Chakrbarti and Shaktinath Jha in India, Abul Ahsan Choudhury and M. Maniruzzaman in Bangladesh, and Carol Salomon in the US.

A Nalanda LLC and Tritiyo Sutra Performance Company production, supported by Loughborough University (UK), the play deals not just with events in Lalan’s lifetime but also his legacy.

“I have not tried to play Lalan in the play. Rather, I have tried to tell his story and speak about his relevance in today’s world,” Chatterjee signed off.

Man of the Heart will be performed at 10am on Sunday at the Academy of Fine Arts and at the Padatik Buildwell Theatre (January 11 to 13).