Artists Disappointed as COVID-19 Fears Halt Navratri Festivities

“About 30% of an artist’s yearly income comes from Navratri shows,” say artists, as Navratri events stand cancelled.

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Video Editor: Ashish MacCune

After Ganesh Chaturthi, COVID-19 has cast a pall over Navratri celebrations in Mumbai this year. The Maharashtra government has issued a 16-point circular, advising against conducting events like Garba, dandiya and other gatherings this year.

Instead of cultural events, the state government has advised Puja mandals to host health camps and blood donation camps during the festive period.

While organisers of cultural events and the artists that perform every year agree that the current health crisis calls for low-key celebrations, they also, however, cannot deny the impact it will have on business.

“At this time, all artists and musicians are so busy that we have no time to eat or even breathe. Rehearsals start at around 9-9:30 am and go on till 10:30 in the night. We discuss the songs that we will be performing, what’s new and how to pull it off. But this year, everyone is free and sitting at home,” says musician Mehul Ganggar.

The three months prior to Navratri and the festival itself are the busiest for Garba artists across India. With big-ticket events being halted this year, however, the industry braces for losses worth thousands of crores.

“About 30 percent of an artist’s yearly income comes from Navratri shows, in those 10 days. That’s why, it’s a huge deal for everyone. I too earn 30 percent of my income during this period. There are about 7000-12,000 people attending these events. Financial losses are not just restricted to artists, even decorators, caterers and every single people associated with this industry will sustain losses.”
Manish Joshi (MJ), Singer 

Ganggar adds that even the smallest of musicians earn anywhere between Rs 25,000-Rs 50,000 during Navratri. Big scale organisers even rake in up to over Rs 5 crore, he says.

“Even the smallest of musicians earn Rs 25,000-Rs 50,000 during this time. But this time they have no work. If you look at a bigger scale, people earn from Rs 25,000-Rs 5 lakh and big scale organisers earn in crores... but this time, that won’t happen because of the lockdown. Artists are losing out the most this time. People’s businesses are restarting, their shops are opening up but artists are still out of business.” 
Mehul Ganggar, Proprietor, MG Music 

A huge chunk of dance instructor Kiran Shah’s earnings depends solely on Navratri. He helps hundreds of people hone their Garba skills before festivities begin each year. This year, however, there have hardly been any inquiries.

“We conduct classes in Kandivali, Andheri, Malad, Borivali and Ghatkopar. Every year, 300-350 students come to learn from us. Each course is priced differently, if they want to learn the basics, it costs Rs 2,500, advanced course costs Rs 3,000, pro-level course costs Rs 3,500. This year, there have been only 10 percent inquiries. That is, hardly 30-35 students, because everyone is sure that there won’t be any Navratri (events) this time so, obviously, no one would want to come learn Garba,” says Shah.

Shah’s revenue has dipped by 90 percent because of the pandemic this year.

“Every year, we earn approximately Rs 5-6 lakh during the three months before Navratri but this year, we won’t even touch Rs 50,000. We understand that we have no choice but to bear this because of the present situation.”
Kiran Shah, Owner, D4Dance G4Garba

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