Interview with Niranjan Goswami-Pioneer of Indian Mime


T5E got the opportunity to interview recipient of Padma Shri award, Shri Niranjan Goswami, who was invited to the institute by the Extra Mural Lectures team for a talk on ‘Bharathiya Mukhabhinaya’ on 15th October. The speaker had conducted a workshop before the lecture both of which were well-received.

Niranjan Goswami is an Indian mime artist and stage director, credited by many with pioneering the art form of mime in India. He is the founder of Indian Mime Theatre, a group promoting the art of Mukhabhinaya (silent acting). He received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2002. The Government of India bestowed upon him the Padma Shri, in 2009, for his contributions to Arts.

When asked how he had become interested in the art of miming, Mr. Goswami jokingly responds that he had stumbled across the art by accident. Spotting his flair for mime, he was made the chief-in-charge of the dramatics programme of the annual function at his school and the event was attained much acclaim from the audience. Spurred on later by his colleagues, he decided to take up the art seriously. He was the first person to receive the Young Talent Scholarship from the Department of Culture, Government of India for mime. Motivated by himself and out of passion for his art, his primary objective was to set up a national mime institute which he succeeded in doing with the establishment of Indian Mime Theatre in 1976.

Mr. Goswami during a performance
Mr. Goswami during a performance

Can you share your views and comment on the changes in themes and styles of performances if any, over the years?

Definitely! An art must flow like the river; it’ll die if it is stagnant. Various new forms are being inculcated into various aspects of the art. In fact, a lot of themes from local and traditional background are fused into the art these days to make the art more understandable and relatable.

What do you think of the effectiveness of communicating messages or pleas for social change through this art?

Every form of art can be used to convey any message, especially on social causes such as drug abuse, atrocities against women, and so on. The main advantage of mime is that there is no barrier posed by language. The message is conveyed through body language and actions. Anyone can understand actions! Many comment that this is a dying art but this is certainly false. It has grown to become a language of communication. The art certainly does not depend on the ‘Digital era’.

Can you describe the challenges faced by the art of mime?

Learning begins once you become interested. The present scenario is quite different from when I had started out. Now, if you are interested in the art, you can find a myriad of materials on the internet to master the art. In fact, you even have YouTube videos! Back in 1960s, it was difficult to find a teacher to begin with. The real challenge is however selling your art. Once you’ve learned to perform, you have to deal with ordeal of marketing, packaging, presenting and PR communication.

At the EML

Do you think the audience for miming have grown over the years in their appreciation and numbers?

Yes, of course. The number has increased drastically increased over the years. Just sports have always been deeply encouraged before in schools; now I’ve noticed that the government is taking measures to popularize mime as well by introducing contests in schools and colleges. It is a way of expressing oneself and it should be taught to students along with sports.

What do you do in your free time?

I do not allow myself the pleasure of free time.  A minute lost is a minute lost forever and you, students should know it well. I’m already engaged in organizing plays or workshops for the coming summer. I serve as a visiting faculty at various institutes such as National School of Drama New Delhi, Bharatendu Natya Academy Lucknow, Film and Television Institute of India Pune and so on. I speak at numerous institutes and try to connect my art with the particular field of interest at the host institute. It goes without saying that I’m also engaged in a multitude of tasks everyday as the director of Indian Mime Theatre.

How would you describe your philosophy in a nutshell?

As a teacher, I must motivate my students to think differently, plant seeds of curiosity, and invoke in them the ability to question. I consider myself to have succeeded as teacher if they have understood the value of self-discipline and individuality.

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