Iris C F Gomes
His drive to promote mime is evident in the fervour resonated in his voice. One of Goa’s own has taken the state to the international stage and still somehow remains unsung and uncredited for his contribution. Drupad Gaonkar, who spent about a month in Goa recently actively disseminating his artistry, became a mime artist at a later stage in his career. Earlier, all of Goa knew him as a dancer and a theatre person. Today he works as a researcher in mime perspectives and history at the Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Educational Research. He says, ‘I had a backdoor entry into mime. Earlier, I used to write plays, choreograph dance dramas, etc. I’m more of a teacher type. In my performing arts I would include many elements…including juggling. I always wanted to bring mime on stage.’
In 2004, Drupad had his first opportunity to focus entirely on mime when he was told that Isabel de Santa Rita Vás required someone proficient in the art at IFFI. Following this venture, he felt the urgency to establish some sort of platform for mime in Goa. He took on many theatre folks to create an atmosphere conducive to the art form, but they were reluctant to take it on as a full time occupation because of the notion that it is not financially profitable.
Drupad has made some life changing choices, one being moving from amalgamating all his acquired art forms through direction to practicing mime. The other choice has been relocating to Auroville, the City of Dawn. Why he left his home state of Goa is met with a terse retort, ‘Lata Mangeshkar left Goa. I have not!’ The universal city is indeed representative of human unity as one is not isolated or singled out on the basis of caste, creed, religion or race, but those very differences are seen as contributions to the betterment of society. Drupad says, ‘When we come to Auroville, we have to bring our identity over here. You have to bring your 'Goaness' over here. That makes Auroville! I am doing Goa’s work over here. You bring the good part, the funny part and so on.’
Go Goa Po Pondy is a society that has been started by Drupad in Pondicherry to act as a cultural liason between Pondicherry and Goa. Gomantak means land of light and therefore an office called House of Light has been set up in Auroville to establish the presence of Go Goa Po Pondy. However, for the idea to take root and be explored to its full potential it would require the active co-operation of the Government of Goa, which is unforthcoming in terms of participation or funds.
Drupad recognises Goa’s gift of multiculturalism and wishes to build upon that base. ‘Had I been anywhere else, I would have been a mime artist. Goa made me because of its multicultural environment.’ He has performed at the Saturday Night Market, the Anjuna Flea Market and various restaurants and thus has been exposed to the reactions and responses of a multitude of cultures in the form of his audience. This is something he would never have had in places such as Delhi and Mumbai.
The venue has great significance to an artist because in a mime performance an Italian and a Tamilian will not understand it in the same way. Trying to make an audience that is unfamiliar with a particular culture appreciate what certain gestures may convey is a laborious task that involves research and creativity. For example, a French audience has never seen water being drawn from a well as it is done in India. One needs to find gestures that would have the same connotation for them.
Coming back to his shift from Goa, the Santa Cruz native, who lives with his wife and daughter in Auroville, insists, ‘Although my base was made in Goa, Auroville is hundredfold. People in Auroville are focussed. It helps you focus too.'
Through his workshops and teaching sessions, Drupad has found that people everywhere react to mime in the learning process in much the same way. They seem to display similar flaws. It is only in Auroville… at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education that he has encountered children who make different kinds of mistakes. ‘I was very excited to see these new mistakes,’ says Drupad gleefully. Since children are more supple physically and mentally they grow out of the mistakes, while adults take longer.
Touching on the healing therapy through mime, Drupad believes that therapeutic benefits will come from anything that is done consciously, be it the arts, talking to parents or confidants and even life itself. The ease of mime and its minimal wear and tear on the body is the art’s advantage over something more vigorous like Russian ballet: a dance form that is highly competitive and wherein the dancers usually retire by the age of 40-45.
Young artists who are still at the first rung of their career must understand that an incredible will is necessary on this journey in order to achieve their goal. Drupad often gives the example of Steve Jobs to inspire aspiring artists. People with something like internet start-ups will obviously do it for monetary gain but mime is a different proposition. One has to look beyond the money and concentrate on the love of the art. Eventually, the money will come in too. He advises about the pressures an artist has to deal with and the priorities he or she must set, ‘If you have a hand holding your head in a bucket of water, you will not sing the National Anthem. You need air. You have to decide what that air is for you! Then the same hand that held your head under water will clap for you.’
It is Drupad’s opinion that we stop exalting our parents to the station of gods. ‘God is everywhere,’ he says, ‘Get rid of notions like I, me and my family. It is amazing when done in the right spirit.’ Ironically, Drupad’s parents were broadminded and well off, which allowed him the freedom to pursue his dream. Though he did face negative comments on his choices from other people. ‘If it is no one else, then it will be your own hand putting your head in the water,’ he says, citing the example of a young mime artist who joined a BPO to make more money despite Drupad’s assurance that mime could fetch him money in lakhs of rupees if he continued with the art form.
‘I have chosen my air and I’m happy,’ says the man with a vision, stressing that a great deal of inner strength was needed to adhere to his decision. He encourages young artists to read the autobiographies of great men to draw on their courage and perseverance in life.