Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 263171
Loughborough University

Enterprise Awards 2012

Social and Cultural Impact

Scene from theatre production

Man of the Heart: Bengali saint’s message of harmony brought to life through theatre

Lead academic
Dr Sudipto Chatterjee, English and Drama
Contributor
Dr Proshot Kalami, English and Drama

Lalon Phokir was a 19th-century Sufi-Baul Bengal Saint, whose music is a living oral tradition that transcends the political divide of Bangladesh and Indian West Bengal. An iconic figure for preaching religious tolerance and secularism, Lalon Phokir’s work is as resonant with contemporary society as it was during his lifetime.

The Man of the Heart project grows from Sudipto Chatterjee’s long-standing interest in Lalon Phokir, and has been developed collaboratively through the theoretical and film-making expertise of Loughborough English and Drama colleague Proshot Kalami.

Dr Chatterjee’s overarching research goal is to develop understanding and appreciation of South Asian performance and theatre, communicating his findings by publishing traditional academic books and articles; and reaching wider communities through performance.

Early research for Man of the Heart involved a collaboration with Calcutta-based film director Suman Mukerjee to devise a solo-performance exploring Lalon Phokir’s philosophy and music. This was followed by consultations with and key scholars of the Baul-Phokir tradition from India, Bangladesh and the US. Dr Chatterjee has since performed Man of the Heart to a range of audiences in the US, India, and Bangladesh, Germany and the UK, resonating with general and academic audiences alike.

Man of the Heart has returned the academic research to its roots, inspiring wider communities with an interest in Asian culture, including those living in South Asia, and those of Asian descent. It has made a significant contribution to engaging a new generation of appreciators, keeping Lalon Phokir’s work alive and preserving it as part of the Bengal region’s cultural heritage.

View Man of the Heart preview.

Impact

  • Man of The Heart has been performed 25 times across North America and South Asia.
  • Three new performances took place in Loughborough in collaboration with Charnwood Arts in March 2010. Many of the audience were from local Asian communities who had not visited the University before.
  • A sold-out performance took place as part of the Barbican Theatre’s 'Do Something Different' week in March 2011.
  • Dr Chatterjee and Dr Kalami were each awarded the prestigious "Interweaving Performance Cultures" Fellowship by Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany, to continue their work on Man of the Heart over 2011-12. These Fellowships will facilitate their ongoing work on their book on the project as well as documentaries and electronic archive of their field research.
  • Man of the Heart has inspired a new organisation in Bangladesh, the Bhabnagar Foundation, which aims to take Lalon Phokir’s message to Bengali audiences.
  • The project has been seen in Rome by an audience of more than 1000 on occasion of the first European Lalon Festival, in October 2011.
  • In November 2011, a full-length concert of Lalon Phokir’s songs was performed before a full house in Berlin with musicians from Italy and Morocco.
  • In 2012, the project will be presented before audiences in Finland and Bangladesh in May, and then in Morocco in June.
  • The Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures) in Berlin is currently in negotiation for featuring the project in their major cultural festival, with performances from all over the world, in July-August, 2012.

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