Corona Theatre! Because, theatre cannot stop
A young Marathi playwright has started an Instagram page to keep virtual performances going and to keep artistes connected during the lockdown
With a history dating back centuries, Marathi theatre found its peak in the 1950s and 1960s with performances that included musical drama, folk dance, social plays, farces, experimental plays and serious drama. Even today, it continues to have a marked presence across the state. However, like everyone, this industry too suffered in the lockdown. On May 21, members of the Marathi theatre and film fraternity, including Mukta Barve, Aadesh Bandekar, Subodh Bhave, Avadhoot Gupte, Nikhil Sane and Hemant Dhome, reached out to Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray to discuss on resumption of work. From discussions on helping the backstage crew and folk artistes, to guidelines needed to be followed while resuming post-production shoots, the meeting lasted for about two hours. However, with theatres being closed across the state, it may take a little longer for the industry to bounce back.
A 28-year-old playwright, Yugandhar Deshpande, is trying to keep all performers afloat through his new page on Instagram, Corona Theatre. Originally from Pandharpur, Deshpande is best known for his work in two plays, Agdich Shoonya (a story of two friends who come from the world of zeroes) and Aswastha Samudrawar Bail Melaay (the story of a small town couple and the big city chaos that follows them). "I have been living in Mumbai for the last eight years, and returned to Pandharpur just two days before the lockdown. Almost 10 days into the lockdown, I realised something needed to be done to keep Marathi theatre alive," Deshpande recalls. He argues that while writers can survive an indefinite quarantine, actors cannot. "I can at least sit down and write scripts, but what will actors do at home?"
Commercial Marathi theatre is a happening scene, not just in Pune, but also in Mumbai. "Shows happen almost every day. So, imagine the impact the lockdown has had on this industry."
Initially, Deshpande started the Instagram page to keep the merriment going. "The idea was to invite even the common man to send us videos, re-enacting famous dialogues or scenes from plays. But, I realised in order to make the page popular, I needed famous faces from the industry to send me their videos first." For the first few weeks, Deshpande has run videos of well known talent like Lalit Prabhakar, Manjiri Pupala who narrated Gulzar's story, Gaurav Ghatnekar who recited some stories in Urdu, and Swapnil Kulkarni who performed bhajans for the audience. "We also started doing live shows every day, and the page gained instant popularity. So now, we only feature Marathi artistes to keep the theatre alive."
Within just two months, the page has about 1,030 followers and over 113 posts. "We also recently did lavani baithaks, which were a big hit. But my favourite performances include Mayuresh and Vipul Kale's mime act and Aarti More's puppet act. She used puppets to depict the life of an actor in quarantine. It was truly a beautiful performance," he adds, saying, "A big vacuum has been created due to the Coronavirus, people are craving live performances. I still feel the Instagram page is just a compromised platform to keep all artistes and viewers connected. Watching a theatre performance live, however, is a different experience altogether."
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