Assam theatre groups are heading towards a bleak future
Assam theatre groups are heading towards a bleak future |Gautam Ganguly
OPINION

Will COVID-19 sound the death knell for Assam's unique mobile theatre groups?

Theatre groups, an embodiment of Assam’s rich cultural heritage, are passing through a bleak, torrid time for the first time in its glorious history of over 60 years

Gautam Ganguly

Gautam Ganguly

The world is virtually in the grip of morbid fear as a disastrous consequence of COVID-19 pandemic that has taken countless human lives so far, with more people falling into its vicious trap.

Possibly, for the first time, scientists and researchers appear perplexed by the advent of a virus that goes on relentlessly, ransacking age-old avenues of human earnings and desecrating multiple sources of human entertainment, besides engulfing millions into its deadly fold.

Agonizingly, in contrast to numerous path-breaking developments dating back to different centuries that have enriched human civilisation, the impact of COVID-19 has been demonic and regressive across the world. Closer home, a casual look reveals disturbingly the extent of damage caused to Assam’s unique mobile theatre groups in view of prohibition of mass gatherings due to coronavirus outbreak.

The mobile theatre groups have always been prolific source of entertainment to the connoisseurs of dramas in the length and breadth of Brahmputra valley
The mobile theatre groups have always been prolific source of entertainment to the connoisseurs of dramas in the length and breadth of Brahmputra valley Gautam Ganguly
Consequently, the iconic theatre groups, an embodiment of Assam’s rich cultural heritage, are passing through a bleak, torrid time financially and commercially, first time ever, in its glorious history spanning over 60 years

Consequently, the iconic theatre groups, an embodiment of Assam’s rich cultural heritage, are passing through a bleak, torrid time financially and commercially, first time ever, in its glorious history spanning over 60 years. It needs no reiteration that the highly professional mobile theatre groups (Bhramyaman Natok Gosthi) have always been prolific source of entertainment to the connoisseurs of dramas in the length and breadth of Brahmputra valley.

The gradual ascendancy of the mobile theatre groups from the 70s onwards had culminated into producing a number of breath-taking, stupendous plays on stage ranging from Miri Jiyonri, Mahabharat, Shakespeare’s Othello to Hemanta Dutta’s magnificent Titanic and the recent blockbusters Mulagabharu or Mirabai, to name a few. These theatre groups have always been significant earning source, means of livelihood, for the entire gamut ranging from the actors, singers, dancers, directors, musicians producers , action artists, makeup artists, to the ordinary workers responsible for erecting tents, etc, for the last six decades.

The pandemic, needless to say, threatens to break the financial backbone of the theatre groups in addition to weakening financial stability of a wide range of passionately involved stake holders. Further, the future appears bleak for public performance on stage, if the present dismal state continues.

Banner of 'Village Rock Stars'
Banner of 'Village Rock Stars' Gautam Ganguly

Superb blending of artistic brilliance with refined entertainment saw the Assamese film world reaching a rare degree of perfection and unprecedented commercial success in the year 2018-19 with a number of superlative movies overwhelming the aficionados.

If the splendidly directed Village Rock Stars with its aesthetic excellence had created a flutter across India and was promptly nominated for ‘Oscar’ with Rima Das becoming a house hold name, Jatin Bora’s highly entertaining Ratnakar had been a run-away success in box office, a virtual chartbuster , creating unprecedented wave and craze among cine-goers.

Assam’s financial growth and stability during last two decades can be appreciated from the fact the state’s vehicular population which was around five lakh in 2001 rose overwhelmingly to 15,28,269 in 2011 and by 2018 the figures had crossed beyond 20 lakh

Mission China and Kanchanjhanga were runaway super-duper movies that pulverised Zubeen’s Garg’s countless admirers by his elegant screen presence as well as his mellifluous voice .

Xhoihobote Dhemalite directed by Bidyut Kotoky, Doordarhan eti jantra starring Prastuti Parashar, Bhaskar Hazarika’s Aamis, Bornodi Bhotiai, to name few, are some of outstanding films that have embellished ‘Jollywood’ in the recent times.

Ironically, as a remarkable anti-climax to such heartening developments, the cinema halls today have the silence of a graveyard.

Assam’s financial growth and stability during last two decades can be appreciated from the fact the state’s vehicular population which was around 5 lakh in 2001 rose overwhelmingly to 15,28,269 in 2011 and by 2018 the figures had crossed beyond 20 lakh. Further, it is revealed from the Census 2011 that out of 63,67,295 houses surveyed, 30,49,934 households have telephones, a testimony to the state’s rosy economy.

Guwahati’s Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport has reported a growth of 31% in passenger movement in the year 2017 which is higher than many Indian cities like Lucknow, Kanpur etc. We hope that this positive growth is sustained despite Corona pandemic.

Restaurants and eateries are other casualties to the dreaded corona. Burgeoning growth of restaurants and jaunts from internationally acclaimed ‘Dominos’, KFC, etc, to our own iconic ‘paradise’ restaurant serving wide variety of food from continental, western to traditional Assamese cuisine etc., showcase rich tastes of food loving people of Assam besides highlighting their buoyant, cheerful nature.

On a lighter vein, coronavirus threatens to wipe out and eradicate perennial human desire to remain healthy, glowing and handsome. Mankind, in general, looks cadaverous with their masks on.
A scene from Hemanta Dutta’s ‘Titanic’
A scene from Hemanta Dutta’s ‘Titanic’ Gautam Ganguly

The fate of these eateries together with huge manpower associated with hospitality industry lies buried in unforeseen future. But, there is always ‘light’ at the end of dark tunnel, the saying goes.

On a lighter vein, coronavirus threatens to wipe out and eradicate perennial human desire to remain healthy, glowing and handsome. Mankind, in general, looks cadaverous with their masks on.

(Views expressed are the author's own. He can be reached at gautamganguly2012@gmail.com)

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