COVID-19 and New Pathways for Artists and Artisans

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By Dr. Shirin Abbas, Copy Edited by Adam Rizvi, TIO:

While India’s COVID 19 figures continue to soar, taking the nation rapidly close to attaining over 450000 and the number of deaths to over 14000, it has left not just a large number of the workforce unemployed. Artists and artisans are facing the brunt with no work and no audience for over three months now and no signs yet of audiences returning to theatres.

But in every adversity, lies an opportunity and the future belongs to those who have surmounted the obstacles in their path by coming through with innovative solutions.

Kangana Ranaut

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown out of gear all 2020 predictions for various industry sectors. Last week, FICCI-EY launched its annual report for the M&E industry. Titled ‘The Era of Consumer A.R.T – Acquisition, Retention and Transaction’, the report reveals that the M&E industry grew by 9 percent in 2019 to become a ₹1.82 trillion industry. The report also predicts that the M&E industry is expected to reach ₹2.42 trillion (US$34 billion) by 2022 at a CAGR of 10 percent.

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The COVID-19 crisis and the resultant lockdown across the country have started impacting the economy. The global economy is now entering a recession, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva declared last week. Ad spend projections are being revised globally, and India is no exception. The M&E industry, too, is facing challenging times.

Karan Johar – Salman Khan

In response to Adgully’s question, Ashish Pherwani, Partner and Media & Entertainment Leader, EY India, admitted that there would significant revisions in the projections that were given for 2020. According to Pherwani, “If the lockdown continues for the whole of April, we might look at a flat year ahead. There is also a possibility of a 10-12% drop for the M&E industry if the lockdown continues beyond April, while if the current scenario continues for more than 3 months, then the drop for the M&E industry could go up to 20-25 percent.”

Alia Bhatt

With cinema halls shut down, the movie industry has also been hit. Though estimates aren’t available currently, but looking at the big-ticket releases that have missed their launch dates, including ‘Sooryavanshi’ and ‘83’, Bollywood’s loss will be significant. The regional film industry is also in for a period of loss.

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Television and digital could be the next launch platform for fresh movie releases amid the COVID-19 crisis. As stated by Pherwani, “Especially the small budget movies might consider a release on TV or digital platforms. On the other hand, the bigger budget movies could afford to hold back their movies during this time.” There could be a disruption happening in the movie distribution space as well.

 Also, along with movies, all production work for TV and OTT has come to a grinding halt. Thus, these mediums are looking at a situation where they will soon run out of fresh content. In such a situation, Pherwani said that innovation would be the name of the game.

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A still from Fauji, Shah Rukh Khan

 GECs are gearing up with moves such as repurposing OTT content for TV, and are also banking on the nostalgia factor by airing popular old serials. The National television network Doordarshan has started airing mythological behemoths of the 90s – ‘Ramayan’ and ‘Mahabharat’. It is also due to air Shahrukh Khan’s TV series ‘Circus’ ’Fauji’ and ‘Byomkesh Bakshi’. It is to be mentioned here that TIO Editor in Chief made his television debut in Fauji almost three and a half decades back before moving on to America.

 More movie premieres are also expected on TV channels in the coming days. It is also possible that production houses might create content from home, like a YouTube producer, and broadcast it on TV.timates for M&E all askew; drop could be as high as 20-25%.

 While financial hardships under lockdown are not things that Bollywood often speaks about but the recent suicide by actor Sushant Singh Rajput the television star who rose to deliver a number of hits in Bollywood (Kai Po Chhe, MS Dhoni The Untold The story, PK, Raabta, Kedarnath a most recently Chhichhore), has exposed the dark underbelly of the Indian film an industry where lobbies and camps operate to side-line or run small stars out of business.

Sushant Singh Rajput apparently was tied down to a Yash Raj Films contract that did not allow him to work on films by directors like Sanjay Leela Bhansali who then opted to select Ranveer Singh instead. Actor Kangna Ranaut, earlier in the news for alleging sexual harassment by Hrithik Roshan and spouting charges of nepotism in the film industry had also gone online and shared a video about the need to calling out the lobbies in Bollywood that do not allow “outsiders” to thrive in Bollywood. Director Shekhar Kapoor who was working with Sushant Singh Rajput on the film Paani had also hinted at him being disturbed over the way he had been side-lined in the film industry apparently because he had said no to a Karan Johar film.

While police investigations are on to probe what led Sushant Singh Rajput to commit suicide by hanging himself in his Bandra flat, his reported girlfriend, Rhea Chakravarty, actor Alia Bhatt, Salman Khan, and A-lister directors and producers like Karan Johar and Adi Chopra are being questioned on whether they had lobbied against Sushant and driven him to take the extreme step in desperation.

The suicide has also put the spotlight on depression and brought the issue out in the open.

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In the coming days TIO will be doing a series of articles on efforts being made during the lockdown by artists and others to support musicians, theatre artistes, writers and suchlike communities and sustain them during these difficult times.

Curated by Maham Abbasi



Shirin Abbas

Dr. Shirin Abbas is the Bureau Chief "TheIndiaObserver.Com". She is a world-renowned journalist, winner of several national and international awards for her contribution to Media Research.The first recipient of the prestigious British Chevening Scholarship for Print Journalism in 1999 from her state of Uttar Pradesh. Under the same, she studied at the School of Media, Communication, and Design at the University Of Westminster, London and interned with The Irish Times, Dublin. She has been a journalist for over three decades, working at several national English dailies in North India. She completed her PhD. in Mass Communication in 2016.

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