Artistes opt for lifestyle change post demonetisation

KOLKATA: Sidhu, the frontman of Cactus, turned 47 on Wednesday. While deciding on his birthday party spread, Sidhu was in two minds over whether to go for a lavish or not. With 80% shows of the 24-year-old Cactus band cancelled due to demonetisation, Sidhu admits that Bengal’s entertainment industry has never been hit this badly before.

The problem is so acute that even lifestyle changes are being made. “In the whole of December, we just did one corporate show. Our music industry survives on cash transactions and it’s been a disaster for us. Today, I am even thinking whether to have lobsters or not on my party menu,” said Sidhu, hoping that the situation will improve next year.

Singer Lopamudra Mitra isn’t that optimistic. Earlier, she would do at least 25-26 shows during winters. “This year, the figure has dropped to half. In my 21 years of singing career, I haven’t seen something like this. Every year, I go on a vacation with my team of 9 musicians. This year, I am wondering if I should do that,” Mitra said. Show organisers have also come up with an alternative. Instead of opting for big-ticket celebrity singers, they are now hosting functions with lesser-priced young singers, including kirtan singers who became popular with reality shows.If music industry is still struggling, celebrity shows are negotiating a lull too. On December 26, event manager Atanu Sarkar had organised a show with Jeet, Dev, Srabanti and Payel in Bankura’s Mejia. “The organiser had put up a pandal for 20,000 viewers. Only 7,000 turned up for this ticketed show. The ‘macha’ industry has just crashed. Gone are the Rs 5 lakh programmes that we would host on New Year. This year, one might see para orchestra shows for Rs 35,000,” Sarkar said. These days, Sarkar is getting calls from many artistes who are now struggling to pay their EMIs. “Based on the income from shows, many had bought fancy luxury cars and spacious flats. Today, they are worried about how to pay up,” Sarkar said.
Meanwhile, theatre personalities insist that demonetisation is like the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Said actor-director Chandan Sen, “People in the theatre world are supposed to be last benchers. Till middle of December, we were panic-stricken. I had to cancel my show of ‘Ora Aatjon’ on November 13. Apart from emotional loss, the financial loss was Rs 20,000.” According to Sen, Bengali theatre is trying to “limp back to normalcy” though things still look “very bleak”.In the movie business, the loss in 2016 has already been pegged at Rs 100 crore though it’s unfair to blame demonetisation for it completely. In the current calendar year, 180 movies were censored from Kolkata. Among these, only 122/126 will get released. Among these, only six films – “Eagoler Chokh”, “Praktan”, “Byomkesh O Chiriyakhana”, “Zulfiqar”, “Double Feluda” and “Byomkesh Pawrbo” will end up doing good business. “Only 10 films have managed to break even this year. The remaining released movies made an average loss of Rs 50 lakh each. Besides, there is the loss of films that couldn’t even release,” said Krishna Daga, vice president at the East India Motion Pictures Association.

Next year, Daga is anticipating a 50% dip in the release of Bengali movies as compared to this year. Insiders also apprehend that there will be a dip in availability of good content that can be released. Though multiplexes haven’t felt the pinch and are looking forward to good content next year, it’s the single screen theatres that are struggling badly. Ranadhir De, who runs 14 single screen theatres across Bengal, says at least seven night shows of most of his theatres had to be cancelled post-demonetisation. “After November 9, there has been 30% dip in sale of tickets. In any case, single screens were doing bad business. We tried to renovate some properties to woo more crowd. With demonetisation, all our efforts have gone down the drain,” De said. Demonetisation, he said, is the last nail on the single screens’ coffin.