The State Culture Department may not organise any live stage performance this year due to Covid-19 pandemic. ‘Kala Panchang,’ the annual calendar of the activities of the department, for the fiscal year 2020-21 has been reduced to a piece of paper. The department had plans to hold hundreds of events in Bhopal and different cities of the state, including dance and musical recitals, plays, festivals and felicitation programmes this year. All, however, are on hold. The department hasn’t held any programme since mid-March this year.
Due to corona-induced restrictions, all the auditoria in the city, including the Ravindra Bhawan, Bharat Bhawan, Swaraj Bhawan and Shaheed Bhawan are closed since mid-March and so are the galleries and the museums of the department. That is not only bad news for the culture-lovers but has also impacted thousands of artistes, technicians and others who together form the core team that stage performances. “We cannot say by when we would be able to resume our activities. That depends on the government,” Sunil Mishra, in-charge assistant director, culture told Free Press.
He said that when the restrictions are eased, the department would resume its activities. “We would make all the necessary preparations once the appropriate guidelines are issued but till then we can just wait and watch,” he said.
Prem Gupta, director, Childrens’ Theatre Akademi, Bhopal, is apprehensive that this entire year would go waste as far as cultural activities are concerned. As for online events he said they were just a formality. “Just tell me how many people would like watching a play on the tiny screen of the mobile. As for us artistes, we get satisfaction only when we perform live. The reactions of the audience, their applause, their cheering energise an artist,” he said.
Shruti Kriti Barik, director of Kriti Ballet and Performing Arts Bhopal, said that online performances are meaningless. She said that the artistes are raring to perform on stage but they have no option. “Halls are not available and there is a ban on gatherings. What can we do,” she said.
Sharad Sharma, director, Abhinav Rangmandal, Ujjain, fears that life performances would not be possible even in the year 2021. “I have a suggestion to make. We artistes are responsible members of society. Why can’t the government allow cultural performances in open air auditoria and in gardens etc with proper social distancing,” he said.
Poor response to virtual theater
The department has switched to online mode for holding programmes but that is a poor consolation, given that events streamed live and also made available on the YouTube channel of the department, have only a handful of viewers. For the past three months now, the department has been uploading performances on its YouTube channel. But to date, it has just 1,580 subscribers. The number of views is even smaller. For instance, the episode of Rang Sanskriti Ke uploaded on August 10 had just 103 views and 13 likes. The ‘Lalit Parva’ broadcast on YouTube on the same day just got 144 views. ‘Uttradihikar’ could draw only 57 views on August 9. A play streamed by Swaraj Sansthan got just 27 viewers and 1 likes on August 8. ‘Heer Ranjha’, a play uploaded by Tribal Museum under Abhinayan series on August 7 got only 69 views and three likes.