Artistes continue to struggle financially amid pandemic
A stage performer from Greentown committed suicide by setting himself on fire
The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown have left many artistes in dire straits, forcing some to run the households with meagre wages.
Due to persistent unemployment and hardships, deserving artistes in Punjab have received urgent relief cheques from the government ahead of Eid.
According to Pakistan Film Distributors Association Chairman Chaudhry Ijaz Kamran, “This will be the first time since the formation of Pakistan that films will not be released in cinema halls for the second consecutive year on Eidul Fitr.”
He said that more than two dozen films were not being screened due to the continuous lockdown, adding that amid the current situation, not only the film industry was suffering from economic woes, but the artistes associated with it had been severely affected.
The coronavirus which has spread all over the world has also affected the artistes badly. Theatres, cinemas and production houses have been closed for a long time.
Commenting on the situation, artiste Faisal Qureshi said, “Why do we need to ask for help? We work hard all year round. Every human being has a time to work and then there comes a time when he can't work like before. He benefits from pension or other means but we are deprived of it?”
Some of the people associated with showbiz are forced to do menial work to run their homes. One of the artistes, Rim Jhim, works as a labourer in the houses under construction, while two others artistes came to Muslim Town a few days ago for similar jobs.
Azam Rahi, a stage artiste from Greentown, committed suicide by setting himself on fire.
Sadia Sheikh, who had been performing on stage for 27 years, is now making her living by selling nan-tiki in Garhi Shahu Bazaar.
The Punjab government has set up artiste support funds for providing financial support to the artistes, whose beneficiaries number about 2,000.
Ahmed Butt said, “There are so many artistes who have passed away and most of the remaining are in a very bad condition.”
Singers, producers, musicians, technicians and actors have been demanding immediate payments from the fund.
The artiste community has also protested over their plight. They say that they share everyone's grief and joy, but it was unfortunate that the government had not yet recognized the showbiz industry.
Artiste Omair Rana said then field had lost many great names in recent times. Recently, Mehdi Hassan's disciple Asif Javed Mehdi lost his life fighting against poverty and coronavirus.
Singer Association Chairman Anwar Rafi had requested the government two days earlier that Asif Javed be provided free treatment but also financial assistance.
Punjab Theatre Artistes’ Association President Afzal Butt said that the economic condition of the artistes had deteriorated due to the continuous closure of theatre halls.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2021.