Pandemic or not, content is always the king, say producers

Producers of different art forms share their thoughts on producing art in times of pandemic

Producers shared their thoughts on producing art in general in live sessions organized by Parichaya, a non-profit initiative by two young dancers. Photo: By Special Arrangement

When it comes to art, well, no matter what, content is always the king.

This is what producers from across the country say. They shared their thoughts on producing the art in general and, in the trying times of the pandemic in particular, in live sessions organized by Parichaya, an initiative by two young dancers — Anagha Harkare and Shruti Ranade — from Pune.

Anagha and Shruti curated these live sessions with the producers. Explaining the idea, Anagha told The Federal, “We always appreciate different art forms and artists but we never acknowledge the work of the producers who put in all the efforts to build a program right from the beginning till the end. So this is our small effort to celebrate the work of all the producers and tell their stories to the people.”

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Anagha Harkare and Shruti Ranade from Pune. Photo: By Special Arrangement

In the first session, Prasad Kambli of Bhadrakli Productions that produces theatre plays shared his thoughts. He said the script selection isn’t about any formula or recipe. “It’s all about perception. What I like to read, listen, and watch is what I choose irrespective of the times.”

When asked about producing a play during the pandemic, Kambli said, “Content has to be the best irrespective of times. That would be the basic criteria even today Apart from that all the backstage precautions will have to be taken care of and more importantly, we have a bigger responsibility today as an artist — because the audience will take the risk of coming out of their homes to watch a play.”

Like it has always happened in the Marathi theatre fraternity, he thinks these times will also result in the emergence of some path-breaking content or production technique. “We have to be positive even during the crisis,” he said.

“We are quite positive about the coming days, but still, we need a proper framework for operating. Also, there should be funding from the government. This is a critical issue,” said Kambli while pointing towards the safety as well as financial concerns.

Keerthana Ravi of RasBodhi Arts Foundation has organized a dance festival in Mumbai for years. She was the first artist to start a crowd-funded classical dance festival in India back in 2015.

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About today’s art landscape, she said, “The competition isn’t between the arts or artists. We are now competing with OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Along with that, even food ordering apps are our competitors.”

Keerthana also stressed maintaining good relationships with the people (artists as well as audiences) plays an important role in achieving success in the long run.

Usha RK, the director of Jawaharlal Nehru Culture Centre in Moscow, was also one of the speakers of the series. She talked about the funding aspect of the productions. “Before applying for grants or making applications for government schemes, one must look at what is already available. There are dedicated funds for arts in both government and private sectors,” said Usha.

When asked about creating the monetary influx in the field of arts, she said, “One must look at it like starting a small shop. You won’t get business from day one. You will have to make efforts so that people know you and have a fixed customer base. Similarly, you can’t master the art in a matter of days. You have to make a lot of efforts. It is a mix and match and a balance of various aspects.”

Kushal Khot, who manages the Wide Wings Media, a production house based in Pune, shared his experience of successfully organizing paid online events even during lockdown. “We believe in live performances inside the auditorium. But for the time being, we took it to the online platform during the pandemic. Thus, we started Online Maza Theatre (OMT),”said Khot.

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“We chose 20 well-known Marathi artists for OMT and divided them into four teams. Then we would give them a topic and they had to perform on Zoom live sessions. The idea was to keep theatre alive. At the same time it was an attempt to accept this new medium of online performances.”

The activity was ticketed so as to keep the value of the art, he says. “We got a tremendous response,” said Kushal.

Wide Wings Media has been organizing innovative programs such as overnight theatre performances, mime-act competition, Mushaira as well as a few other initiatives for over five years in India and abroad.

Surendra Mohite, who is founder of the ‘Sa Va Ni’ events, said his firm would be the first to organize a classical music concert post-pandemic. “It is important to organize more and more concerts and give an opportunity to the new artists.”

He believes that classical music must be performed live in front of the audience. “Response from the audience is a vital part of a performance,” says Surendra.

Another young producer trio — Anup, Ashwin, and Kapil — who organize classical concerts under the banner of Shuddhnaad said that Facebook, Instagram, etc are not appropriate mediums for art like classical music. “Social media live sessions tend to compromise the quality of the art form. So, we chose to record videos and put them on YouTube instead.”

“All these producers are trying their best to keep their art form alive. Good luck to all of them,” said Shruti.

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