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Get close again in the time of COVID-19

Get close again in the time of COVID-19
March 31
10:46 2020

NEW DELHI: Finally got over the excitement of working from home, binge watching even mediocre series on OTT platforms? Is playing chef and cleaning the house getting on the nerves now? Well, its time to reconnect with things that make you feel alive — again.

From online concerts, theatre festivals, museum tours, Dastangoi, book recommendations and fitness classes, social media surely seems to have come to the rescue in these times of solitary confinement.

Asmita theatre group, which is organising the world’s first (China organised an online opera recently) online theatre festival titled ‘Quarantine Theatre Festival’ which started on March 21, streaming for free some of its best-known plays, including ‘Hanush’, ‘Final Solutions’ and ‘Jis Lahore Nai Dekhya O Jamyai Nai’ among others via premium screening on Facebook, in a way gave a cue to many other artists to follow suit.

“In times when people are talking about social distancing, we insist that what is needed is just physical distancing. Let’s keep the social connections alive. This has been a great experiment for us, getting us lakhs of views. Not only are people getting to watch some pathbreaking plays, but for many first-timers this is their maiden exposure to this art form. I am sure this will result in more footfalls in auditoriums once the lockdown is a thing of the past. Let’s just say that we needed to do this as at this time — people could not come to the auditorium, so theatre decided to go to them,” he told IANS.

Musician Susmit Sen, co-founder of the band Indian Ocean, who later started The Susmit Sen Chronicles, and was seen on the Facebook concert ‘The Inside Session’ organised by The Big Band Theory on March 29, laughs that despite the fact he is not really technology-savvy, he enjoyed it every bit.

“We were operating from our homes, and I had to be guided continuously. But that didn’t come in-between the excellent response.” Stressing that in such times, art provides the much needed respite, he adds, “Connections assume significant importance during gloom. Music definitely does more than just lift spirits up.”

Stressing that as an artist, she misses the rush of being on stage, singer Jasleen Aulakh, who also performed during ‘The Inside Session’, says that the live streaming from the safety of her home provided the much needed connect with her listeners again.

“Honestly, the experience proved to be a great way to stay sane. No wonder, I have signed up for another live session on April 13,” says the artiste, who wants to continue doing such sessions even after the lockdown is over.

“I really feel sad for students of music who need to consult their teachers often, but are unable to do so due to the lockdown. I may start some interactive sessions for them on different social media platforms soon,” says Indian classical vocalist Kaushiki Chakraborty.

Stating that the “mental lockdown” is more telling than the physical one, she is all for live sessions being held by singers on social media platforms. “One definitely gets a sense of reassurance that comes from familiarity. Of course, the effect may not be that of a concert, but then look at the circumstances…” Chakraborty says that most musicians were looking forward to their tours in the coming two months, so one can understand the sense of disappointment.

“But thanks to the social media, they at least have an outlet of some kind and a means to connect to their audiences.”

Vocalist Shubha Mudgal, who doesn’t plan to do any live sessions, explains the reason why, “The reason I don’t want to use social media platforms for concerts is that they prevent accompanying artistes and ensembles to be together for a performance.”

Stating that singing live on different platforms is a spontaneous reaction from singers, classical vocalist Sunanda Sharma adds, “In these times of crisis, we are trying to do our bit.”

It’s not just singers and theatre artists who are taking over social media. While publishing house Juggernaut is offering the Juggernaut app with its catalogue of bestsellers and curated-for mobile reads for free, HarperCollins India is providing a host of reader-centric activities with the central idea of #HarperAtHome.

Its Marketing Head, Akriti Tyagi tells, “Besides book recommendation a day, there is also #Reset, in association with Algebra. We are aiming to launch a series of events, using the zoom app as a platform and move author interactions online. Each Wednesday, we will feature a curated list of our authors who will talk about the issues pertaining to society during these uncertain times.”

Considering the way stand-up comedy has swept the country in the past few years, it would have been very unusual if major comedians didn’t mark their presence on online platforms. A live session by ‘Aisi Taisi Democracy’, one of the best known stand-up groups in the country was live on Facebook recently.

Its member Sanjay Rajoura makes it clear, “Look, I am under no illusions. I don’t think art can serve people in any capacity, the assumption itself is arrogant and problematic. My aim is just to expose power structures and introduce people to all the rot around. I do it on the stage, and I did it on Facebook live, an idea floated by people who manage us.”

For someone like Mahmood Farooqui, credited for reviving Dastangoi, the ancient art of Urdu story telling, it was a tough decision to put his creation ‘Dastan Jahalat’ on You Tube on March 29 and 30.

“I have always believed that this is a three-dimensional art form which must be enjoyed live. I have always been against putting my work on YouTube as that invariably results in reduction of people coming for live shows. However, this time was different. In such uncertain times, art provides salvation and food for the soul. Of course, beyond a point, it makes no differencee. How will it make life easier for hungry people walking back to their villages?”

Filmmaker Anusha Rizvi, the the producer and brains behind putting ‘Dastan Jahalat’ on You Tube adds, “We can think on the lines of creating a fresh work for social media. Of course, that depends on the technical support and if the equipment we have at home is good enough.”

Even NGMA (National Gallery of Modern Art) is facilitating a virtual tour of its treasures as it celebrates its 66 years amidst the COVID 19.

And to ensure that you don’t gain inches around the waist, there are some fitness courses being offered for free too. Dancer and choreographer Ravi Rastogi, who is offering free and live classes says that more women are coming forward for his classes as compared to men.

“I was missing my studio during the lockdown, so thought of stating this. People are participating actively, with many responding in real time and posting their pictures.”



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