Monday, 30th October 2017

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Covid-19 casts a cloud on mobile theatre

Bhramyoman groups claim pandemic will hit footfall

By A Staff Reporter in Guwahati
  • Published 6.05.20, 12:21 AM
  • Updated 6.05.20, 12:43 AM
  • 2 mins read
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A mobile theatre performance File picture

The novel coronavirus pandemic has cast a cloud of uncertainty over this year’s performances of bhramyoman (mobile theatre) — Assam’s biggest entertainment medium.

The pandemic had already dealt a blow to the theatre groups forcing them to wrap up last season’s performances a month ahead of time.

Assam has around 50 mobile theatre groups, each giving employment to 100 to 150 people, including artistes, and those who make pandals (temporary structure for performance) and arrange light and sound.

In the first week of August every year, these theatre groups set out on a nine-month journey, reaching out to people in every nook and corner of the state.

However, before going to the masses, each group has a lot of in-house work to do between May and July, including rehearsals, finalising contracts with employees and setting ready stage, light and sound. Bookings of a major portion of the shows are also done during this period. The nationwide lockdown and the government’s social distancing norms have forced the producers of the mobile theatres to set all theatre-related work aside.

“At this stage, it is impossible to think about preparing for theatre. Mass gathering is the core idea of the mobile theatre. If lockdown or social distancing norms continue, then starting mobile theatre is impossible,” said Krishna Roy, producer of Abahan Theatre, one of the oldest and prominent theatre groups.

Roy said they had to close their performances from March 16 for the last season. Losing a day’s performance means financial loss of around Rs 1 lakh for a theatre groups, which ultimately hits the entire team.

“We are now indebted to those who had booked us and given advance money but we could not perform because of the pandemic. We will perform in their areas this year if it became possible at all,” he said.

Producer of Kohinoor Theatre, Tapan Lahkar, said they are considering postponing rehearsals and starting performances by a month. “There still remains a big question mark over performances this season,” he said.

“Even if we start performances, the question remains whether we will be able to get the kind of response from people we usually get. Excepting a few, accommodation for most artistes of mobile theatre groups are arranged in the residences of people close to the place of performance. We are apprehensive whether people this time will be willing to let the artistes stay in their houses,” said Lahkar.

The pandemic has punctured the spirit of the playwrights too. Rajdweep, one of the popular playwrights of the mobile theatre industry, said usually he remains engrossed in finalising his plays for the season during this period. “This year, I am unable to concentrate. The uncertainty over this season’s performance is hovering above the theatre fraternity. My plays are not ready yet,” he said.