Vilas Janve: Expressing The Silence With Mime
A speechless, white masked artist on stage performs only with his facial expressions and body language, makes his audiences l
A speechless, white masked artist on stage performs only with his facial expressions and body language, makes his audiences laugh and even cry, it finally leaves a mark, a question and a big, serious impact on everyone’s mind to think and act upon it.
The name, Vilas Janve is incomplete without Mime and Mime is incomplete without Vilas. Udaipur- The city of lakes has many exceptional and extra ordinary people but Vilas Janve has something more than being extra ordinary. Born in Kota, Vilas Janve came to Udaipur in early age , being a son of a theatre artist, No doubt Vilas as a kid took art and theatre as his childhood plaything. He started acting at the age of 7; today Vilas Janve is one of the best known Mime Artists of India.
Currently working as a program officer in WZCC, Mr. Janve is the only mime artist performing in WZCC. Out of much national and international recognition for his incredible performances he also received Senior Fellowship by Ministry of Art and Culture,India, in year 2004.
Vilas Janve’s simple, down to earth and amusing nature can pull anyone’s attention. He is a man of honor and child at a core. Following is an excerpt from my conversation with Vilas Janve.
How do you define Mime as an art?
The art in its own term is essentially divided into 4 categories. Angik (Expressing by body movements like dancing), Vachik (Expression in words by speaking), Avrik (with use of props), Satvik (pure just by facial expression and gestures), Mime is the satvik form of art. It originated during the ancient Greek time, it was known as the first ever drama or theatre performance. When performers at that time were unable to bring something large on stage like a chariot, an elephant, a lion or any other thing they used to enact that on stage, Mime helped those artists to perform without using anything on stage. But in India it wasn’t looked as a different art form. In western countries it was practiced differently.
Films of Charlie Chaplin were mime too?
No that’s not what we call a pure Mime performance, Charlie Chaplin’s movies were silent but he used many props therefore he belongs to third category of art, Avrik. Marcel Marceau was a legendry French Mime artist who popularized Mime globally.
From where did you learn Mime, who was your Guru?
There are two great personalities whom I consider my Mime Gurus and inspired me to become a Mime artist. First, it was Mr. Shail Choyal, I saw him performing Mime when I was still in college. On the very first sight it attracted me so deeply that I decided to learn it and approached Mr. Choyal, I learned so many things from him. As time passed, I learnt different mime techniques myself; you can also say that I was my own teacher. Another personality whom I am proud of is Padmashree recipient Mr. Niranjan Goswami whom I met in National Mime Festival in 1996-97 I learned a lot from him and still learning.
Any negative responses you ever faced from your audience?
Let me share you my life’s worst experiences as an artist. First incident, it was somewhere in Maharasthra I was performing Mime and suddenly audiences started shouting “is there something wrong with mike, we cannot hear anything”. The second one was even worse; this incident happened in a college function where I was participating in a MIME competition, fortunately or unfortunately the announcer forgot to call me on stage. Competition was over and people were waiting for results, at that time I was asked to go and perform. I started acting and audience started hooting badly, even a boy handed me a coin of 25 paisa and said “ok, keep this and leave now” I felt bad but at that moment though I did an amazing act for which I received the third prize in that competition. However, it’s so embarrassing for any artist to be in such situations but I don’t make my audience responsible for that. Mime is so much ignored in India that hardly few people actually know that there is some art called “Mime”.
Where are the Mime Schools in India?
In India, Kolkata is a capital of Mime Art, there are many schools dedicated to art of Mime. My guru Padamshree Niranjan Goswami also runs a Mime school named as Indian Mime Theatre. Even Mumbai has got some good Mime schools. I also organize Mime workshops at my residence in Udaipur on every weekend. On Sundays I organize workshops for kids. I try my best to develop their talent, interestingly most of the time their parents also get involved. There are many college students who come to learn small acts for their cultural functions and events etc.Since when are you in Job? Soon after the graduation in the year 1973, I worked with Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal, Udaipur as Puppetry Instructor and Stage Co-ordinator. In 1975 I worked with Postal & Telegraph Department for 6 months. From 1975 to 1986, I rendered my services as a Marketing and Public Relations Officer to Haryana State Small Industries and Export Co-operation. After 10 years in 1986, I came back to Udaipur and joined WZCC as Program Officer.
Can Mime be a full time profession of any artist?
Yes it is possible to take Mime as a full time profession. There are many options, like you can work with Drama Schools or can open your own. Even Government has programs for educating people about various social issues like cleanliness, water conservation and pollution where they often sponsor Mime and other arts. Government also provides scholarships to deserving Mime artists in the range of Rs. 6 to 12 thousand per month.
Is Mime on verge of extension?
It is wrong to say that Mime is on its verge of extension. It cannot die so easily, mime is gaining popularity among the common mass, people want to know and understand this art and they want to get involved. To my experience, I noticed that Mime is not at all like what it was in the earlier days. People love silence, smile, anger, joy and tears in form of expression. Mime reminds them of their everyday problems, whatever it may be, either social or economical. People love to flow with Mime artist’s imagination.
What are the basic requirements for a person to learn Mime?
Person who wishes to learn Mime should have a close observing power, it is important to analyze each and everything around us to make it feel real on stage. Flexible body with good stamina is required as a physical aspect. You have to create illusion of something which is not present.
What if you would not have been a Mime artist?
I could have been a theatre artist, if not Mime.