Bahurupi, the one with different faces

By Rikparna Sinha Roy

Photo Credit: Five Prime

Bahurupa, Bahu (many) and Rupa (form) is a Sanskrit word, closer to English word Chameleon, which means one who changes its colours or textures often. The word is popular as Bahurupi in Bengal as art form. A Bahurupi is a street performers, dressed up in various characters in different times and it is considered as one of the ancient profession. Bahurupi Kumar Abhijit is one of them. He is a Bahurupi — the many-faced artist and actor who performs in public spaces. This is his way of living. He accepts money, clothes and food, but he does not beg. It’s a dying art in West Bengal and only a handful of family still practices it and earns living out of it.

Adhir Chandra Naskar or Kumar Abhijit is a famous Bahurupi, what makes him special is his non-stop performance for last 24 years every day. Earlier he had performed in Jatra (an art form) and cinema for more than 26 years. Kumar Abhijit had also performed with Bengali Superstar of 70’s Mahanayak Uttam Kumar. He got the title of Kumar Abhijit during his Jatra life. When Uttam Kumar died, Kumar Abhijit left his Jatra group because of his decreasing popularity and started living as Bahurupi, dressing up in different characters to earn his living.

In last 24 years of his life as Bahurupi, he has dressed up and performed in more than 8000 characters according to his relevance. While speaking to News Sense he said, “It is my duty to make people understand the importance of this different art form and at the same time raising some relevant issues for people’s understanding”.

With each passing day, many art forms like Putul Naach, Jatra, Stage Drama, Theater, Harinam, Kirtan etc are becoming obsolescent. So, Kumar Abhijit has made it his mission to make people aware of the dying art forms through his performances door to door. He follows Almanac every day and according dress up accordingly for the day.

Now, with the growing cost everything, the expense to buying clothes, different dress, jewelries, shoes and makeup products too are soaring high. At the same time a Bahurupi also runs his family through his performance. So many Bahurupi’s are shedding this art form to explore other profession, something real.

Though Kumar Abhijit is a contended man now. His daughter is a government employee and son is an auto driver. But he earns his own living by performing as Bahurupi. When he started as a Bahurupi, he recalls he was paid 3 Rupees, 26 years back and for him that amount was good at that period of time.

The 75-year-old Bahurupi walks miles and miles, from one place to another, sometimes by train or bus to cover a long distance everyday. As he believes, if he stops performing the art form, it will die an untimely death without respect and some financial help.


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