Scuttling Assam’s Entertainment Industry
The world is virtually in the grip of morbid death fear and experiencing hitherto unknown lockdown scenario as a disastrous consequence of COVID-19 that has taken a whooping 447,463 human lives, so far, (as on 18th June) with more people falling into its vicious trap heralding a new chapter in human civilization.
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, 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 civilization, 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 the coronavirus outbreak.
Consequently, the iconic theatre groups, an embodiment of Assam’s rich cultural heritage, are passing through a bleak, torrid time financially and commercially in its glorious history spanning over sixty years, first time ever.
It needs no reiteration that the highly professional mobile theatre groups - Bhramyaman Natok Gosthi - an inseparable part of Assam’s cultural ethos, have always been a prolific source of entertainment to the connoisseurs of dramas in the length and breadth of the Brahmaputra valley.
The gradual ascendency of the mobile theatre groups from the 1970s onwards that culminated into producing a number of breathtaking, stupendous plays on stage ranging from, ‘Miri Jiyonri’, ‘Mahabharat’, Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ to Hemanta Dutta’s ‘Titanic’and the recent block buster like ‘Mulagabharu’ or ‘Mirabai’, to name a few, have always been significant earning sources for a wide spectrum of the society.
Basic livelihood of the entire gamut - from the actors, singers, dancers, directors, producers, action artists, makeup artists, to the workers responsible for erecting the tents etc - depend on the earnings from these theatre groups. The pandemic, needless to say, has broken the financial backbone of the passionately involved stakeholders of the pristine theatre groups and a bleak future is staring at them.
Perfect blending of artistic brilliance with refined entertainment values saw the flourishing of the Assamese film world with a number of superlative movies in the year 2018-19. If the splendidly directed ‘Village Rockstar’ with its aesthetic excellence had created a flutter across India and was promptly nominated for Oscar Awards with Rima Das becoming a household 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. ‘Mission China’ and ‘Kanchanjhanga’ were runaway super-duper movies that overwhelmed Zubeen 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 a few, are some of the 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 steady amelioration of economic status of general run of people, better standard of living of the ‘hoi-polloi’ can be understood from the fact that there has been a staggering increase of 86 percent vehicle population in the last three decades, as per reports of Economics and Statistics department, Government of Assam.
The state vehicle population in Assam was around five lakhs in 2001 that rose overwhelmingly to 15,28,269 in 2011 and by 2018, the figures have crossed twenty lakhs! This data has emerged in the ‘Statistical Year Book, India 2013’ released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation in New Delhi.
Further, it is revealed from the Census Data 2011, that a whopping 63.2% houses in India use telephone out of which 13,12,40,499 houses in India have mobile phone connectivity. In Assam, out of 63,67,295 houses surveyed, 30,49, 934 households have telephones indicating our state’s roller-coaster ride to financial stability. The experts feel that that a tough challenge lies ahead to go back to the days of prosperity when the world was cheerfully free from Coronavirus pandemic.
Restaurants and eateries are other casualties of the dreaded Corona. Burgeoning growth of restaurants and joints from internationally acclaimed Dominos, KFC, Bar B Q Nation etc to our own iconic Paradise restaurant serving a wide variety of food from - Asian, Continental, Chinese, grilled dishes to traditional Assamese cuisine etc showcase the rich variety of tastes of food loving people of Assam besides highlighting their buoyant, cheerful and progressive nature.
With social distancing becoming the new chanted mantra, the future of these eateries lies buried in unforeseen future. On a lighter vein, Coronavirus threatens to wipe out and eradicate mankind’s perennial desire to remain healthy, glowing and handsome. The pretty ladies look cadaverous with their masks on in their bid to escape from COVID19!
(The author is a retired civil servant and a die-hard theatre enthusiast. The views expressed in the article are his own)