With artists losing jobs, people being furloughed, what is the current scenario in the arts and theatre community among Asians during the Coronavirus pandemic?
Asian Voice spoke to actor Bhasker Patel, known for his role as Rishi Sharma in the British soap opera Emmerdale, to throw light on the internal state of the asian arts community.
“Although the government Chancellor, Rishi Sunak sorted everyone out by funding, the situation is very bad.” Patel cites that the problem is - that all the theatres had to close down and they had to let go off their staff. “The bigger theatres will open up and bring people back, but I’m not sure about the smaller Asian theatres.”
“You’ve totally neglected the freelance writers and painters, stage crews managers are at a loss,” he added.
“There aren’t many jobs. Companies will not employ them because they’ll tell them you’re too qualified to drive a lorry,” he said. Bhasker thinks it’s going to be very difficult for Asian writers. “Who is going to put them on?” he argues.
When it comes to acting, Bhasker thinks that actors will be back to square one. More auditions, more struggle and he doubts that there’ll be multiracial casting without any background, colour or religious scrutiny.
“Yes the UK government’s grant will help but for how long? I think the main problem will be you can open the theatre and cinemas, but if people aren’t sure of going out of fear of catching this virus and infecting themselves, nothing will help.” He feels that the grant can help to keep the theatres open, and maybe with that money, the writers can start writing.
Bhasker said that he and other actors who have begun shooting are taking complete precautions to shoot Emmerdale, which is one of the continuing dramas. Actors are maintaining a two metre distance while shooting. Asked how he sees the future of filming in the post Covid-19 world, he explained that actors are now doing longer scenes, rather than jumping from one to another. But he also feels that theatres are all about interacting with each other. To keep a two metre distance there, loses the purpose of the stage and will be one of the biggest challenges going forward.
Keeping in mind the fragility of the pandemic, Bhasker feels that it is going to be very very difficult for artists to find a project. “I would find a way to support oneself. Ring around people who are willing to help you. No one will volunteer and help you out if you’re not mindful of the situation. A lot of actors in my opinion are always willing to help provided they are also in return, not forgotten. In the past a lot of today's Asian filmmakers were helped by then artists when they were starting out, but all of a sudden after tasting success they forgot the people who helped them. That happens in our industry,” said Bhasker.
Speaking about the preservation and archiving of plays in the post Covid-19 world which is heavily digitised, he said, “Throughout the years nobody thought of recording these plays properly, not even one show properly! Now people will think about those things as well. Even companies like Netflix, Amazon will be investing in them. If they don’t, they are mad. They should actually, it’s not very costly. It is such a shame that no one did in the proper way.”
He regrets that these plays weren’t recorded and that they would have been a goldmine now during a pandemic. He feels that this is something we’ve missed in Britain.”Many people are not theatre goers, they sit at home and watch all these Bollywood films which are copied from Hollywood. They don’t go out and don't support the asian theatres,” he said.