Man of the Heart is on the life and times of Lalon Shah Phokir, the nineteenth century Bengali Sufi saint and song-maker, whose fame stretches across the political and religious borders dividing Bangladesh and West Bengal (India). It is a multi-media solo-performance incorporating live music, dance, spoken word, video and recorded audio. Without assuming any ‘character’ or ‘story’, it attempts to speak/sing/perform around the biography of Lalon Phokir.
Man of the Heart is also an exploratory piece on the body-based philosophy and the virtuosic musical practice of a sect among Bengali Sufis and Vaishnavs known as Bauls. Of them, Lalon Phokir is regarded as the greatest. He practised personally but spoke publicly through his songs. His music performance and practice em-bodied a highly syncretic philosophy that drew from diverse religious sources. He confronted orthodox fundamentalisms and preached a radically different search for divinity that could be located within the corporeal frame. According to this belief, divinity is attained only by means of disciplined, non-carnal physical practice with a female companion, for the Godhead is said to reside only in the female body.
Man of the Heart is located between academic research and creativity, between deep ethnography and exhilarating mediated live performance.
The Man of the Heart Project was launched in 2005, when Sudipto Chatterjee started working with the Calcutta-based Indian director Suman Mukherjee at the University of California-Berkeley. However, its preparation goes back to the early nineties when the ethnographic research began in Bangladesh and other parts of Bengal. The final devising--scripting, designing and performance composition--happened in 2005.
In 2006, the production had its off-off-Broadway run in New York, produced by Nalanda LLC (Berkeley) and presented by East Coast Artists (New York). In 2007-08, Tritiyo Sutra Performance Company joined Nalanda to bring the production to Bengal, in Calcutta.
In 2008-09, Man of the Heart was developed further in light of new research done in Bangladesh.
Man of the Heart premiered at London's Barbican Centre in March 2010.
In 2011-12, the Man of the Heart Project has grown further in Berlin, Germany, under the auspices of the year-long "Interweaving Performance Cultures" Fellowship awarded by the International Research Center at Freie Universität, Berlin.
Man of the Heart is currently being supported generously by the Department of English & Drama of Loughborough University (UK).