BENGALURU: Non-functioning venues, tours postponed indefinitely and no place for performances… the entertainment industry has taken a massive hit due to coronavirus outbreak, with no signs of improvement in the coming months.
While the fraternity anxiously waited for a relief package alongside business enterprises from the government, none came their way. Now, in an appeal to the prime minister and finance minister, Bengaluru-based musician Debjeet Basu has started an online petition through which he aims to gather enough signatures to bring the situation to the government’s notice and seek compensation. The petition has gathered over 1,600 signatures since it was launched on May 19.
"This petition isn’t limited to musicians; it's for the overall industry – technicians, sound and light engineers, venue owners and staff, etc. This initiative is completely personal, though I did speak to a few artistes and other representatives, all of whom agreed that our industry has been completely neglected. So there’s a lot of support behind it," says Basu, adding that the relief packages announced by the government made almost no mention of artists and musicians.
"There are very few event companies that qualify as SMEs, and I don’t think there was any reference to the art fraternity," he says. "As an industry, we are not a huge component of the population, so it’s safe to assume that this petition may not get universal support. Even if we get 5,000-10,000 signatures, that’s a lot for the industry in India. The most important thing is to get our voice heard," he emphasises, pointing out that at 28 per cent GST, the entertainment industry is on the highest tax slab in the country.
Agrees Francis Perry, managing director, Total Productions, an event production firm based in the city, who says his firm owns equipment worth Rs 25 crore which is supplied to venues and festivals, all of which is on a pause now.
"Entertainment has been such an important part of one’s mental health. It an industry built around this concept. Artists and musicians also follow their passion this way. So there are sacrifices made to ensure that this industry exists, but now, we are getting absolutely no recognition and it feels as if our industry doesn’t even exist," says Perry, who also organises the annual Go Mad music festival.
For Sunil Shetty, the owner of the erstwhile performance venue Bflat bar, which was shut down after live music was banned in Bengaluru, the current situation does not come as a surprise. “The whole hospitality industry has been completely ignored by the government. Musicians are a part of it, along with many others, and it’s the worst hit sector in the current times. I really don’t know what hope is left for musicians,” says Shetty.