Where are you ?
In a pre-covid-19 world, Bengaluru had an eclectic arts and theater scene. A play at the Ranga Shankara or a recital at the Alliance FranÃ§aise once hosted two artists and connoisseurs.
In the clutches of the pandemic, just like work, art was chained between the four walls, or rather the smart screens. The art of performance has undergone a “radical change,” said the artists BM spoke to.
“It was a paradigm shift”, like dancer Odissi
Das has performed for nearly three decades, collaborating around the world, exploring a variety of styles and disciplines. She wrote and directed three feature films – Anamika, Neelachal and Ayam.
With the stage no longer available during the blockages, Das underwent a huge transformation, occurring in the foreground. She also used Instagram, like many others. âIt’s not the same,â she said.
âAs the fallout from the pandemic subsided, artists performed for shows from their homes,â Das told BM. Online, screens are smaller than the stage and the attention span too short.
âIn an auditorium, I could turn off the lights and ask the audience to turn off their phones. I had access to spotlights and smoke. Now people are watching from cabs, toilets, anywhere, âDas added. To adapt classical dance to digital, according to Das, it was necessary to eliminate many aspects of the art form.
âA 6-inch screen doesn’t require elaborate makeup, traditional silver jewelry, or costume,â Das explained.
This means that the classical dance that we knew was going to change drastically. Not all dancers can go digital.
âThe light crew, the makeup artists, the Commercial Street stores that supply costumes, all have been affected by the pandemic. By the time we got used to paid proscenium shows, things have changed again, âshe told the Bangalore Mirror. âMoney was always bad,â Das joked. The extended shutdown only made matters worse for the dancer: âA lot of us who weren’t teaching started teaching students online.
There were challenges. âThe dance is based on rhythm. When I recited the taal (rhythm), the students heard it a few seconds later. It took a long time to determine if they were deaf to the beat or if it was the Internet, âDas noted.
Sujay Saple, is the founder of Shapeshift, a theater company: âI focused on visual arts, contemporary dance and movement based theater. I want to create experiences rooted in feelings; make things live up close to the public, as in dreams: a real immersive experience. During the first lockdown, Saple was on hiatus. âDigital is a whole new format. It needs to be explored properly, âsaid Saple.
Last year, Saple also went digital. âMax Mueller Bhavan organizes an annual drama reading of German plays called German Spotlight. This time it was digital. The whole play was done, staged and shot on
While the lockdown meant a hiatus for artists like Saple, there were those who lacked options.
The dance is based on rhythm. When I recited the taal (rhythm), the students heard it a few seconds later. Took a long time to find out if they were deaf to the beat or if it was the internet
– Meghna Das, Odissi interpreter
âCovid-19 affected me on a personal level. I used to spend a lot of time with actors and dancersâ¦ Suddenly I felt caged and helpless, âhe told this reporter.
It was not much different from what Das and Lekha went through. They too explained how suddenly he became isolated.
âI stayed away from the internet, I think it doesn’t work for me. I focused more on the translations, âsaid Lakshmana.
He’s staged a production after the first lockdown and is waiting to launch his next one based on Waiting for Godot. He now teaches in Abhinaya
Lakshmana, however, found relief in three children from Daily Betting, who knocked on her door for food.
âThey were looking for work to be able to eat. I spoke to them to find out where their parents were etc. I told them a story, gave them food, and then they came back, adding stories. They would tell them in their own way. Sometimes I felt like I was with friends again, âLakshmana recalls.
Likewise, Akash makes reading theater, an intimate format where the audience plays a role and the production does not require a stage. âThe audience tells us their stories and we build from there. It’s very intimate and interactive. We do this in small groups. When we started doing it online, we got a good response, âhe said, adding that not only the artists but also the audience are going through the so-called Zoom fatigue.