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Assam’s mobile theatres await end to immobility

Bhramyoman awaits govt nod to start rehearsal, producers to meet health minister

Guwahati, June 12: The state’s mobile theatre industry (bhramyoman) has taken a major hit amid the pandemic-induced lockdown.

The industry has been reeling under losses as the theatre groups had to wrap up last season’s performances a month ahead of time and rehearsals for the upcoming shows are yet to begin.

Producers of around 50 mobile theatres of Assam are waiting for the state government’s green signal to start practices.

Producers to meet health minister

Tapan Lahkar, the producer of Kohinoor Theatre, said, “We usually start rehearsing by July and we head out to perform across districts by the end of August, but we are late by almost a month this year. As we cannot afford to lose a year, we have prepared an action plan and discussed the matter with several political leaders.”

He said, “According to the action plan, we will start preparing for our shows after August 15 and start performing in various districts by the end of September. However, we can only act on it after receiving government’s nod. Hence, five of us will meet the state’s health and family welfare minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma within a week.”

Lahkar said though the government had sought a list containing names of theatre artistes, who were affected by the pandemic, it did not extend any financial aid yet.

Preetom Saikia, the commissioner and secretary of the state’s cultural affairs department, said, “There are two schemes to support artistes financially. The finance department is soon going to take an action on helping around 1,000 mobile theatre artistes with Rs 50,000 each soon. We are mulling allowing mobile theatres to operate. We will issue directives soon. Theatre groups will most probably be allowed to rehearse after August 15.”

Dancers, supporting actors among the worst hit

Each theatre group provides livelihood to 100 to 150 people, including artistes, and those who set up the stage and arrange light and sound.

Veteran theatre artiste Mridul Chutia said, “This is an off season so people associated with the industry have a limited source of income at present. However, if we do not start preparing by the end of August, many people will be rendered jobless.”

“The established lead actors can act in films, soap operas or music videos for an alternate source of income and the low-ranking workers such as crew members and technicians get covered under the government’s schemes for the under-privileged,” he said.

“However, the mid-level people, including musicians, supporting actors and dancers, who depend on mobile theatre to make ends meet, are at the receiving end,” he added.

Uncertainty looms over footfall

“Most offices have been allowed to reopen with an attendance of 50 per cent staffers. I am sure we can manage rehearsals with 50 to 60 per cent people putting up at separate places or rooms,” Lahkar said.

“Putting up performances maintaining social-distancing norms is extremely difficult. Halls will probably be able to accommodate only 50% of the audience. It will directly affect our profit,” he said.

Actor Nayan Nirman Baruah said, “I am uncertain about receiving invitations from the organising committees across the state and the footfall.”

“I am working on a few short films and music videos at present,” he added.

Actress Sarmishtha Chakraborty said, “I am hopeful to begin work soon. I have signed up with Sudarsan theatre this year and have received the signing amount too.”

Team NewsFile