ADVERTISEMENT
Go back to
Home » My Kolkata » News » Living statue with social message

46th International Kolkata Book Fair

Living statue with social message

Most are happy to click him or take a selfie with him and leave

Sudeshna Banerjee | Published 10.02.23, 12:27 PM
Still life: Gopal Mandal stands frozen carrying a mini tableau on education for all at the Book Fair on Saturday. (Right) At the Nandan complex during the Kolkata International Film Festival.

Still life: Gopal Mandal stands frozen carrying a mini tableau on education for all at the Book Fair on Saturday. (Right) At the Nandan complex during the Kolkata International Film Festival.

Pictures by Sudeshna Banerjee

Be it the Book Fair or the Kolkata International Film Festival, Gopal Mondal is becoming a fixture at popular city events. And he is being so in a literal sense, staying fixed in his chosen spot for hours, with his shiny body paint drawing attention of passers by, who are at a loss at first sight to decide if he is indeed a statue. On his head is held in perfect balance whatever prop he has chosen for the occasion.

The 47-year-old from a Diamond Harbour village calls himself a bohurupi, aligning himself with a dying tradition of folk performing art in which the performers dress up as deities and roam from village to village or town. "I have been winning go-as-you-like contests in our village fairs since my childhood. My home is filled with prizes, from bell metal buckets to TV and fridge. For the last 17 years, I try to pick a theme and impart a message,” Mondal says, while putting on his make-up for the day.

ADVERTISEMENT

For the duration of the fair, he is staying at a relative's shop in Jadavpur, from where he takes an S9 bus to the fair.

The make-up includes body paint that he buys from hardware stores. “I mix it with coconut oil. It is easy to wipe off with a piece of cloth.” Putting the paint on and off his bare upper torso, both take about 20 minutes. “But I make sure to wash myself with good quality soap so that there is no skin problem.”

Once the paint is on, he says he can stay still up to three hours. At the Book Fair, he is doing shifts of an hour and half at his chosen spot. A canvas bag hangs at his waist, with the covering flap suggestively left open. Most are happy to click him or take a selfie with him and leave. But many are taking the hint and pushing 10-rupee notes into his bag. “Places like Salt Lake, Ekdalia and Jodhpur Park are good for business. I was in these south Calcutta areas during Durga puja,” he says. His stints at the Book Fair have been yielding Rs 3-4,000 on weekdays and over double the amount in the weekend. This is his third year at the Book Fair. “My earlier themes have included Gandhiji, global warming, etc.”

He points to the cost incurred for a new theme. “The two dolls for my current theme of 'Education for all' cost Rs 500. The paint costs Rs 20 for a 100g tin.” But he insists that he is addicted to playing a bohurupee. “I am a devotee of Lord Krishna. I have no other addiction,” he adds. Through the year, he works as an agricultural labourer in the field. “I help in paddy harvesting, digging the ground… whatever work comes my way.”

He has never trained in the art of staying motionless. “You can call it God's blessing,” he smiles, going back to the brush and paint so he can be ready in time to amaze visitors.

Last updated on 10.02.23, 12:27 PM
Share:
ADVERTISEMENT

More from My Kolkata