COVID-19: Lockdown a testing time for Surabhi theatre artistes in Hyderabad


Members of Hyderabad-based ‘Sri Venkateswara Surabhi Theatre’, a group recognized for its vibrant and elaborately staged mythological dramas in Surabhi theatre custom, discover themselves on the crossroads after the Coronavirus outbreak. The major technique of livelihood for not less than 50 households residing in Surabhi Colony in Serilingampally, comprising 200 artistes, is by staging performs. Public performances have been known as off early March because of the pandemic, and since then these theatre artistes have been out of labor and are searching for assist.

A social media put up by city-based photographer Swarat Ghosh, who had earlier photographed the group throughout its performs, highlighted their plight. Swarat had shared the financial institution particulars and on-line cellphone switch choices for Sri Venkateshwara Surabhi Theatre and requested contributions. After the put up caught consideration, there was some help from effectively wishers and from the movie fraternity, together with director Harish Shankar.

Jayachandra Varma, secretary of the theatre group, says barring the theatre actors, round 500 individuals rely on stage performs, taking good care of costumes, make-up, lights, set design and manufacturing. “Ours is a 135-year-old theatre tradition and most of us don’t know any other means of livelihood. I completed my MBA but I’ve always been part of theatre. I’ve been born into this illustrious family (his grandfather is the Padma Shri winning theatre veteran R Nageswara Rao, referred to as Babji) and grew up on theatre,” he says.

In 2016, Jayachandra acquired the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar from Sangeet Natak Akademi. He was additionally a part of the Surabhi crew that staged Mayabazar, Bhakta Prahlada and Sri Krishna Leelalu in France in 2013, as a part of ‘Passages 2013’ initiative, supported by Alliance Francaise.

Jayachandra and others in Surabhi Colony by no means had to think about Plan B. He says artistes made ₹5000 to ₹10,000 monthly by staging exhibits and didn’t complain so long as their primary wants have been met.

In good occasions, Jayachandra and his group would journey to Vizag, Vijayawada, Karimnagar and different cities to stage performs. “These were not ticketed shows, but the organisers would pay us. If we were lucky, we would stage 10 shows a month,” he remembers.

Each 12 months, February would sign the start of a lean section: “Families don’t come in large numbers during exam time to watch plays,” explains Jayachandra.

Now, with a seemingly lengthy curb on social gatherings and public performances, Jayachandra is considering part-time work for himself and different members: “The thought of moving away from theatre is painful. But we need to survive; we don’t expect theatre to revive for a year. We understand these measures [of social distancing]; we are now in a situation where lives have to be saved,” he says.

(Jayachandra Varma will be contacted at 9912924723, e mail [email protected])

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