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Corona-induced shutdown a bolt from the blue for theatre artistes, employees


GUWAHATI, March 18 - More than 3,000 families of the State have been affected with all the mobile theatre groups cancelling their scheduled shows in the wake of the panic caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

As per an estimate, the sudden shutdown will cause a loss of around Rs 40 lakh to Rs 50 lakh each for the producers of big mobile theatre groups and around Rs 20 lakh each for the producers of smaller ones. The entire industry is likely to lose more than Rs 10 crore in the process.

It is noteworthy that the mobile theatre industry, which has been playing a huge role in both Assamese cultural and economic arenas, had suffered similar losses when the anti-CAA movement in the State was at its peak.

�The instant shutdown of the theatre industry has posed as a huge challenge to all artistes and technicians. Now they are left with no other option to earn bread and butter for their families. The situation for the artistes and technicians is graver than the producers,� said actress-producer Prastuti Parashar while speaking to The Assam Tribune today.

At present, Assam has more than 20 mobile theatre groups, each group, on an average, comprising around 150 persons, including artistes, technicians and other staff. The theatre season normally starts in August and ends in the second week of April.

�Artistes and technicians of a theatre group work either on monthly salary or daily wage basis. So, the closure will hit everyone hard. There will be no Rongali Bihu celebration for them,� she said.

She said the State government should look into the matter as a large section of Assamese indigenous people will be affected by the crisis.

Another producer of mobile theatre Pankaj Hazarika said, �My theatre group has around 130 members. Without no shows this time, it would be impossible for me to pay one month�s salary to all of them. So, it�s really a sad situation to be in.�

Hazarika said he raised this issue with the State government recently, but to no avail. The current situation would have long-term effect on the industry, as it would cause losses to local convener committees, too. Young playwright Rajdweep also echoed similar sentiments.

�Today, the scheduled shows of all the mobile theatre groups stand cancelled. It will put convener committees across the State in trouble and they will have no confidence in the future to invite a theatre group. The industry is being entirely run with the love and goodwill of the people of Assam. So, it is a great loss for the Assamese society as well.�

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