COVID-19 Scare: Uncertainty looming over Assam’s Mobile Theatre industry

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Photo credit: Pallab Paban Borah

Guwahati: The cloud of uncertainty continued to cast Assam’s Bhramyoman (mobile theatre) industry even after Unclok 1.0 has started allowing ‘almost’ all normal activities. The mobile theatre industry, considered to be Assam’s most popular entertainment medium, has suffered a major blow this year already owing to the COVID 19 situation.

On Monday, Assam’s COVID count reached 2776 till the filling of this report. Four people have died so far from COVID.

Hoping for ‘sunny’ days ahead, the mobile theatre groups have been waiting for the government’s instructions. The state government has not yet taken any decision on allowing the mobile theatre groups to stage their shows.

Producer Tapan Lahkar, producer of Kohinoor Theatre, a popular theatre group in the state, told Time8, “Though the lockdown has been eased to a large extent, there is no clear instruction available for us. We are trying to connect to Dispur to discuss the issue and also preparing a SOP (standard operating procedure) for us if the shows will be allowed.”

Lahkar said that the theatre group has already worked on their play scripts.  “Usually, we start the rehearsals by July and start performing by August. If the situation improves, we can start rehearsals by August and start our shows before Durga Puja (October),” he added.

Normally, every year in the first week of August, these groups set out on a nine-month journey, reaching out to people across the state. Earlier this year, the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic has blown a dent in the industry forcing the mobile theatre groups to wrap their shows up almost a month before expected.

Krishna Roy, producer of Abahan Theatre, one of the oldest theatre groups, said,“Unless a proper guideline is issued, it will be difficult. Since the norm of social distancing is to be maintained, staging a show will need a proper guideline. We are opting for a wait-and-watch tactic.”

Usually, these shows attract hundreds of people who throng to watch their favourite actors performing live in front of them.

Assam has around 50 mobile theatre groups, each giving employment to 100 to 150 people, including artists, and those who make the pandals, arrange light and sound. Losing a day’s performance costs a financial loss of around Rs 1 lakh for a theatre group.

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