As lockdown eases, reviving entertainment industry will be a challenge in pandemic 

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In a conversation with Ground Report, actors  Adil Hussain, Piyush Mishra, and filmmaker Mudassar Aziz talk about the challenges ahead.

Anurag Singh Bohara | New Delhi

The coronavirus pandemic has affected every walk of life, one of the worst-hit has been the entertainment industry. With actors confined to their homes, sets abandoned, cinemas shut the industry is gearing for a tough season ahead. A similar fate has been of the theatre. While several artists have been vocal of an economic package, the pandemic is going to transform the business and the audience experience as filmmakers and theatre productions ready themselves to adapt to a post-pandemic era.  

In a conversation with Ground Report, actors  Adil Hussain, Piyush Mishra, and filmmaker Mudassar Aziz talk about the challenges ahead.

Reopening film studios and theatres

Actor Adil Hussain states that the people in the film and theatre industry had no idea that such a situation would occur. He says, “Theatre is a medium that’s about art and not just for commercial purpose. In the present times, it’s a very challenging situation to maintain the safe distance between the audience and artists during performances.” 

Hussain further points out, “In the west, the makers and organizers have adopted a method of telecasting the plays online. The audience gets a password through which they can pay for their tickets online and watch the plays. However, even if the same is implemented in India we may lose the quality of a live audience.” 

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Filmmaker Mudassar Aziz says, “I completely back the idea of filmmakers coming with new ideas and working with smaller units in green zones. That’s the only way forward to come up with scripts that can be shot at the contained atmosphere.” 

Piyush Mishra, who dons many hats of an actor, filmmaker, scriptwriter, lyricist and, composer, however, differs as he says, “First of all I will have to get artists on board and look for the sponsors. There are a lot of challenges ahead.”

Future of theatre, films and television

Mudassar feels the future of cinema shouldn’t be speculated on the basis of the current pandemic. Mudassar says, “To be honest as a filmmaker I see the future of cinema-going exactly where it was. This is a pandemic that has affected everyone equally. There is no industry in particular that has not been affected.” He further adds, “I have no hesitation in admitting that we have gone through a major shutdown and everything has been stalled. But the future of film industry cannot be determined by a pandemic that lasts a year or a year and a half.”

According to Mishra, it’s too early to predict the future. He says, “It would be very difficult to organize theatrical plays. It might take six-seven months to understand and introspect as we are going through tough times. An era of depression waits in the near future. Mishra further adds, “When things get back to the normal theatre will be the first priority as it requires less investment.  Theatre will resume first and foremost among all art forms but the question remains how are we going to do it? People would want to laugh and be entertained but such are the times that the entertainers themselves must be going through depression.” He also says, “The whole world is depressed. It will take time for businesses to get back on track. The entertainment sector would be the last priority of the government. At present, the focus would be on the environment, labourers, and villages.”

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Online classes for students

According to Hussain, it’s a very painstaking process when it comes to online classes for theatre students. He says, “In terms of conducting classes virtually you need to ensure enough space while teaching the students. Or else the students could be brought at a place where they could be kept in order to conduct their classes. Both ways there are a lot of challenges in the present scenario.”

Mainstream films releasing on OTT

Mudassar believes whether someone wants to release their films on web platforms, to each is own. The filmmaker says, “The producer is somebody who knows for what consumption he or she made the film. If they feel the need for releasing their films on a web platform they should be allowed to do so. Having said that the multiplex and Cineplex business is dependent on film business and vice-versa.” He further adds, “Although the producers have the prerogative to release their films on web platforms, they should also look into the interests of multiplex owners and exhibitors. So, producers who have the sustenance power must come forward and help the multiplex owners by waiting out that period. However, for several independent producers, it may be a good idea to release their films on digital platforms.” Actor Chandan Roy Sanyal is of a similar opinion as he says, “It depends on the producers if they can hold their films for a year. It’s a money business, so it’s completely a producer’s choice.”

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On the future of aspiring actors and directors

Mudassar feels the people who’re to gain maximum are the upcoming filmmakers and new actors. He says, “With the increasing number of digital streaming services, new filmmakers will get ample opportunity to display their talent.” Sanyal on the other hand is of the view, “For aspiring actors right now nothing is more important than survival. Cinema and theatre, everything else comes later.”