COVID-19 pandemic, brought with it, as a precautionary measure, lockdown and social distancing, which has become the new normal overnight. Although, India is going through a phased unlocking method, but as a matter of fact, local administrations have imposed lockdown in areas under their jurisdiction. Large gatherings have become an element of the past, which now serves nostalgia only. The world of Performing Arts has long been subjected to large gatherings. Audiences are believed to be a part of the show. By virtue of this fact, it has become impossible to continue performing arts practices, in the way, it was usually done before. Sayantani Paul, on behalf of Cachar Chronicles, approaches some of the eminent Performing Artists of Cachar to know their statement on this particular issue. The topic has been exhibited in front of them as, “Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Performing Arts, and the measures that we can take to protect this industry”.
“The situation that is being witnessed by the Global population is difficult to handle. The invisible enemy has taken the whole world in its grasp, and in addition to that, people are acutely afraid of this unexpected and unwanted change. Trusting each other is one of the prime aspects of theatre, but now-a-days, it has become impossible for artists to trust each other unfortunately, and all the credits for such a situation goes to COVID-19. Artists are afraid to come close to each other and that is making it difficult to create and direct productions. Now, I believe, if we cannot trust each other, then how will we able to interact with the audience, and mind you, interacting with the audience is the most important aspect of any Performing Arts. Many of us are working online, but that has made me realised that this is not a good solution in the long run. I believe that, if we, the artists come together, and rise up above our fears, and if the audience do the same and support us with all their hearts, then we may re-conquer the field of entertainment. We may present mono acts or duo acts with a limited number of audience, by maintaining all the COVID-19 protocols. If we fail to recreate and maintain the connection, that we as artists, have among ourselves and with the audience, I believe, we will fail to save theatre and it will succumb to this pandemic.”
Subrata Roy Sambhu
“The new generation has been affected a lot as they cannot enter the world of theatre for the time being, because theatre organisations are now not able to conduct workshops or give them enough scope to explore into this filed. In addition to that, we, the seniors, are also facing problems as we are not able to pursue or practice our passion, like we used to do before. This has caused a huge negative impact on our minds and hearts. Further, people who have taken their passion as a profession are undergoing huge crisis as their whole livelihood is dependent on this. The virtual world of Performing Arts is new to us as compared to the real auditorium life of Performing Arts. Having said that, I believe, we must find some other alternative way, which shall prove to be more trustworthy. We have to try and return to the auditorium culture once the situation turns out to be little normal and also a bit of help and support from the audience would be great for the new start.”
Rahul Das Gupta
As theatre workers, most of us were dominantly into acting, and we seldom bothered about the other aspects of theatre such as makeup, lighting, sound, and most importantly, the technicalities of technology, which has now become the only savior of theatre. Camera angle, facebook live, to name a few, are absolutely new concepts, and we are trying our best to understand these unexplored technologies. It has become almost impossible to present a long show and we are being compelled to perform for a short time period of approximately 15-20 minutes, which in turn, is compelling the directors to get used to a whole new type of script writing. I believe, people are slaves of their habits, and that will rise up as a reason behind this virtual way of performing, becoming the new normal, even if we return back to the stage.
“This pandemic has resulted into a large negative affect on the field of Performing Arts. Artists are very emotional and they perceive performing arts through their emotions, and this very emotional aspect of the art has ome to a stake as currently, the artists are not sure about whom to perform for. Many artists, who have been practicing performing arrts as a source of income, are suffering today. Many organisations have even appealed to the government to help their artists various funds and cultural grants. Theatre largely depends on various artistic illusions which are not possible to be created on social media platforms. Moreover, the atmosphere, while performing on various social media platforms, is not similar to what it should be like. As of now, the only practical solution, according to me, is to get rid of this pandemic, but till then, we must continue with ouor work, as far as possible.”
The last pandemic that this world witnessed, was the Spanish Flu and it lasted for 2 years. This time, we have COVID-19 to deal with. Now, considering the fact that the period at which Spanish Flu pandemic was witnessed, is considered to be the pre-antibiotic era, inspite of that, the pandemic lasted for a relatively small period of 2 years. Thus, we can hope to win the battle against COVID-19 very soon. Individual performance has become the new trend. Performing on social media has made people meet and interact with artists, nationally and globally. People are now more aware about the vivid cultural diversity. Moreover, we can attend various live programmes, right from our home, by a simple online registration system.
Dolonchapa Das Paul
I hope that this world will soon overcome this pandemic. Undoubtebly, this pandemic has affected various wings of Performing Arts, including Recitation. According to me, the artists should concentrate on digital platforms now so that the field of Performing Arts can be protected., despite of the fact that this social media platforms have some limitations in terms of connecting with the audience. We have no other alternatives but to hold on to this digital; media platforms unless normalcy comes back.
The ongoing crisis of COVID-19 has affected the society in the broadest sense of the term. As a matter of fact, it has affected our social & economic life, and nevertheless, the field of Performing Arts as well. Humanity has lost its essence and therefore, it is obvious that the field of performing arts will also be affected. Today, artists cannot perform in an open surroundings, cannot go to a studio with as enthusiastically as before, cannot meet the audience without the fear of getting infected by SARS-COV-II. Thus,an artist has reluctantly confined himself within his residence. Inspite of all the above mentioned facts, I believe that the situation will be back to normal soon, if we maintain all the COVID-19 protocols and meanwhile, we can keep our art alive using Digital Platforms.
“The pandemic has left us awestruck. I have been doing facebook live for a while now, and what I love the most is the interaction that happens, but when it comes on the other side of the coin, there are innumerable singers who are suffering because art has been a profession to them and this pandemic has harmed their livelihood. To come out from this situation might be challenging and slow but now it is being seen that, many live shows are being organised virtually and even online classes are going through the same fate. Many events are setting up a ticket system which requires us to pay a minimal amount and doing that only, we can have access to the event. This might be the new normal for the society as well as the world, but let’s be hopeful that we’ll overcome this phase.”
“Students and young generations are suffering the most as they have been doing a lot of cultural activities and now this pandemic has stopped them from doing their work which has affected them a lot mentally. Even the teachers are suffering but we are trying our best to motivate and help the students overcome this tough time. Online classes are going on but every now and then, we face the network issues which cause a lot of troubles. Live virtual programs are helping us continue our work but again, a field like dance, which requires expressions and emotions, and a lot of space, gets hampered as the camera sometimes fail to capture every bit of facial expressions. But amongst all these, I have done a production on Rabindra Jayanti on virtual platform and on Raktim Das’s birthday by asking people to send their work over phone, but this situation will definitely end and we shall go back to our daily life.”
“This pandemic has definitely brought our life to a pause, but has also given me immense time to practice my songs and music, to explore more and understand music more deeply. I have started engaging myself in other works which has been a good side of this lockdown. This pandemic has taken away the bread of a lot of cultural lovers as they were professionally engaged with music and song. This has also caused some artists to change their jobs for overcoming the problem of livelihood like people have started doing works at their own farms and fields which is helping them a lot. Let’s see what comes as I hope this situation will certainly come to an end and everything will return back to the normal life.”
“A lot of trouble and harm has been caused by this pandemic and in addition to that, it has affected us a lot with respect to mental health. Financial loss has also been a major problem. Music and Entertainment source is being continued on virtual platforms, but this may not be very helpful until and unless a permanent system is found out for the shows.”
“Cultural field has been affected a lot due to this pandemic. Singers, musicians, dancers, theatre artists are suffering a lot. People are maybe enjoying live programs on facebook and even keeping us entertained but I feel that a payment system should be introduced as everyone deserves to be rewarded for their hard work and especially when this situation is getting worse, this strategy might help a lot of performers who are involved professionally in this field. We shall try to return back to the normal life as soon as possible and let’s hope that things will get better soon.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the daily routine of every individual and the whole of theatre fraternity. Some experts have also said that this might be the new normal for theatre. Theatre on stage, may get stopped for a long time as this is a crucial time for the society. Many theatre organisations have tried and are still trying to continue work through webinars, live programs and experimenting with new ideas over virtual platforms. Switching from real to virtual interfaces is tough in India but people are trying to cope up with this new situation in the best way possible. I want to further state Oscar Wilde once quoted “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another, the sense of what it is to be a human being.”
“To be very honest, singers and musicians are facing a lot of issues. Facebook live sessions have stood up as a massive alternative but the demerit of facebook lies in the fact that people can easily skip parts of a video which does not allow them to experience the real essence of that art. Having said that, we can’t deny the fact that facebook live is the only alternative that we can rely on as of now, and I hope that the situation will get back to normal very soon.”
“The very word, ‘Performing arts’ focuses on the point of a performer which brings before us, instantly the picture of a stage amidst the audience. Before this pandemic, various literary and cultural organisations used to organise “Kabitar Ashor” (Assembly of Poems), where a person who recite, could perform his or her recitation, but now the situation has totally changed. Now-a-days, no live program is organised in auditoriums; here the technology is playing a vital part because various live facebook programs are being organised, where an artist can perform and can easily get the reaction of each and every individual audience. But we must be hopeful that soon we will be back and should be practicing our work as for an artist his work is like the oxygen to him.”
“Digital platform seems to be the new normal as we cannot perform on stage in front of the audience now-a-days. This is only a way to quench our thirst for dance and other cultural works as an artist finds his true self on the stage in front of his/her audience. It is only then, that the performer is able to spread his/her aura among all the artists out there. The direct contact is missing now which has left a void in programs as for an artist, interacting with the audience is a vital part of his/her art. As a dancer, the “Aaharya ras” of dance is missing in the programs that are being performed on virtual platforms and it is not possible to implement such elements of art on social sites, but as we are now in a tough time and our hands are tied, so we have to continue like this till this pandemic is over and a vaccine is found.”
“It is a fact that, since the very beginning, we have been facing various crises in various times and in various ways which have ultimately made human power more self-sufficient and advance. The present situation, in this way, is not an exception. Under this situation, we have taken the help of technology to maintain our cultural survival. Apart from survival, this technology has also made it necessary for an artist to manage each and everything by himself or herself which develops him or her in the broader perspective. But to fight against this situation, it is not enough to take help of the technology simply, rather we must try to produce the same effect on a virtual live show, as in the physical world, so that we can survive this situation.”
(This article has been written by Sayatani Paul aka Mithi Paul)