A ‘behrupiya’, or impersonator, is a centuries-old form of performing art in some Indian States like Rajasthan, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Gujarat, as also some neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Traditionally these behrupiyas used to make a dramatic appearance at weddings or other occasions, dressed as policemen, priests, or other figures, and create a stir among the people, much like a flash mob does today.
A popular source of entertainment in medieval times for kings and other royal dignitaries, tribe members were also known to be used as spies due to their expertise in disguising themselves. It is said that there were over 350 defined roles for impersonators at one time. Today, with the art form going nearly extinct, the 100-odd behrupiyas in India are living in abject poverty. Cities sprang upward and outward, and the streets—where behrupiyas, acrobats and magicians once drew huge crowds—became the domain of traffic. There was a time they were invited to weddings to bless the newlyweds and to baptisms to pray for young children.