KARACHI: The ongoing pandemic has moulded our world and with that, our livelihood and habits. As people become physically restricted to their homes, they've become virtually active and mentally charged with surplus energy in store just waiting to come out.
Thus, art forms are aiming to become digitised with musicians performing online concerts to designers conducting online fashion shows. And now it seems like theatre artists will also be finding an online platform.
Samrat Sharma, a Kolkata based artist from India has initiated a 'World Home Theatre' programme which will feature performing artists from around 12 countries so far, including Pakistan.
In a conversation with The Express Tribune, Sharma discussed what pushed him to make the platform - based on Youtube - and how he plans on taking it forward.
"Every moment has become a struggle to survive since the pandemic broke out. You turn up the news, you'll hear about the virus. You open social media, you'll read about the virus. Everything has become dark, and depressing, especially for artistes who are used to the spotlight."
He then explained how the darkness surrounding him illuminated the idea in his mind. "Even though we're physically enslaved, our grey matter roams free. So I came up with this initiative and thought it would show the world that creativity cannot be contained by a virus. I had friends from different countries and when I approached them with the idea, they were all for it."
Sunil Shankar, a National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) graduate will be representing Pakistan on The World Home Theatre. Aside from him and Sharma, the project promises to feature performances from Anzelea Lopez from Mexico, Nicola Adel from Palestine, Nilanka Namal from Sri Lanka, Micaela Picarelli from Argentina, Cheung Chun from Hong Kong, Rahul Raj from Bangladesh, Francis Perin from France, Benjamin Gonzalez from USA, Elda Gallo, Jolyane Langlois, Maartje Pasman from Austria and Roman Sidorenko from Russia.
Shankar also opened up to The Express Tribune about his collaboration with Sharma, detailing the ongoing problems performing actors are facing in Pakistan and around the world.
"It was Samrat’s initiative. He told me to record a performance and I sent him a narration of Zindagi Se Dartay Ho with respect to the ongoing situation."
Sharma specified that the initial theme for his Home Theatre will be about coping with pandemic. However, he remarked that the initiative cannot be turned into a permanent solution, unless actors become equipped with the set up of a theatre at home.
He further called it a "temporary consolation."
"Nothing is happening in terms of performing art. But people who can teach theatre are giving online lessons, dancers can also give online lessons but an actor can only serve with his/her art. And how can we act alone in a room with ourselves?" questioned Shankar.
He added that performing artists, especially actors around the world are looking for a means of survival. And he also plans on engaging a screen writer to write a plays which actors can work on from their homes. that can later be combined and shared on YouTube. "But I'm hoping we don't have to do this for much longer."
Sharma, however, felt that his platform may gain viewership due to the number of countries involved and if it does, he can make it bigger by incorporating artistes from all the countries around the world.
"I’m just focusing on the transition phase right now. If things work in our favour, I am thinking of even hosting a World Home Theatre Festival online."
But one can only find out if people would be willing to watch theatre online, instead of films and series which are designed/produced using extensive budgets specifically for digital platforms.
"It will be starting on May 10," he said hopefully. "We can only know if people would be willing to do that once it launches, but I'm hopeful."
He added that his aim was to digitise theatre, considering that it can help engage viewers from around the globe. "I'm thinking of involving the daily wagers as well, the light, camera, set and props crew. If things work out, we can create new employment opportunities for them inside our homes," Sharma opined.
In the end he prayed that the relationships between India and Pakistan improved so artists could collaborate without the fear of being treated like culprits.
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