• Assam's mobile stage dramas face a gloomy future

    Assam's mobile stage dramas face a gloomy future

    Guwahati: The pandemic has brought a sudden shut among the mobile stage dramas of Assam. Earlier in the pandemic, these theatres were one of the most viewed dramas among the locals in various villages of Assam. 

    However, the Corona pandemic brought a breakdown among the theatre's owners' and artist's lives. As per general news of Assam, several cases of artists were shown as suffering from financial issues due to no work and income.

    The bulk of the 30 portable theatre organizations in Assam could establish it difficult to stage a comeback following practically two years of cessation, considering two aspects of COVID-19 lockdown headed by uncertainty related to the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act demonstrations.

    The Krishna Kanta Handique State Open University on July 9 established a digital meeting of Bhramyoman (traveling theatre) producers, directors, and social, economic system experts to determine a custom ahead for the mobile theatre organizations paralyzed by periods of inactivity.

    The meeting corresponded with Achyut Lahkar, who founded the mobile theatre reconstruction by creating the Nataraj Theatre society in 1963.

    "The Bhramyoman season from July to April suffered a bit towards the end of 2019-2020 before COVID-19 struck to keep those associated with the industry virtually unemployed. The situation does not look like improving soon. Because the investment is huge for a theatre group, 99% may not survive this phase," actor and head of Awahan theatre group Prastuti Parashar said.

    "Given the popularity of mobile theatres across Assam's rural landscape and the demand, we have to think of ways to stage plays while coexisting with COVID-19. Maybe we can cut down the audience size of 1,500-2,000 during normal times to 700-800 and increase the number of shows per day," playwright-director Abhijit Bhattacharya, who has been related to the Bhramyoman for 25 years, said.

    Suresh Ranjan Goduka, a mass communication design researcher at the Indian Institute of Technology-Guwahati, said the yearly turnover of the mobile theatre organizations was ₹25 crore.

    "Mobile theatre owners said materials such as bamboo, iron poles, and fittings, timber, and tarpaulin have been damaged or are unusable because of almost two years of inactivity. They will need to pump in ₹40 lakh-₹45 lakh more to return on the road. It will be difficult unless there is some assistance," he asserted.

    Presently, it seems difficult for the teams of mobile theatres to set back into staging dramas among the public, as the pandemic continues to surge around the state.