Punjab's Theatre industry requests govt to lift restrictions for Eid shows

Artists are willing to take all necessary social distancing measures to ensure a safe and healthy production

Adnan Lodhi May 05, 2020

Theatre fraternity in Lahore has appealed to the provincial government to lift lockdown restrictions during the Eid holidays.

In a letter to Punjab Cheif Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, a consortium of Lahore's theatre artists appealed that theatre spaces should be allowed to open for business during the upcoming holiday.

Producers argued that the lockdown that followed the Coronavirus outbreak has left professionals and particularly the daily wagers in dire straits.

"Daily wagers such as makeup artists, light operators, sound technicians, security guards, and people from various fields who earn on a daily basis to meet their needs are starving," an excerpt from the letter read.

Discussing the woes of the industry, producers maintained that despite the entertainment industry contributing a lot towards overall taxes, none of the stakeholders have been given any financial assistance by the government.

"Majority of our staffers are white-collar people who do not beg for a living or accept charity," the letter pointed out the tricky predicament majority of the people in theatre industry are currently faced with.

Furthermore, the producers assured the government that all productions would strictly comply with the relevant SOPs set by the government.

"We request you to grant permission to the theatre industry to operate on Eid ul Fitr with precautionary measures since this would allow the artists and people associated with theatres to resume work," the letter concluded.

According to senior stage producer Qaiser Javed, artists are usually able to double their earnings during the Eid season. "We usually start rehearsals and preparations for Eid shows in Ramazan.  For Eid shows, the top lot of theater artists and producers get millions of rupees for a two-week spell. However, if the lockdown persists we will incur huge losses. The government must consider the gravity of this situation," Javed told the Express Tribune.

Renowned theatre actor Megha talked about how the past two months have been hard on the families of artists.  "Majority of theatre artists live in rented accommodations and we all know how hard it can be to sustain without a fixed income. Eid Shows are important for us and government should give us relief by allowing us to stage our productions," Megha told the Express Tribune.

Over 75 commercial theatres in Punjab, including 15 halls in Lahore, have been shut since March 15, as per figures provided by Punjab Information and Culture Department. Around 12,000 thousand families are said to have been affected by the closure.

According to producers, major theatres have faced a loss of around Rs110 million, while smaller ones lost around Rs6 million in the 25 days since the lockdown.

“We have not seen such a slump in our entire careers," Producer Sabir Ali Gaga told The Express Tribune. "At the moment, producers and artists are suffering equally. Theatre is all we have as far as making a living is concerned. Keeping in mind the amount of money we have lost in the last month, I won’t be surprised if our poor artists resort to begging on the streets.”

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