A cultural jatha to tell stories of the working class during pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has not just been about health and medical facilities, but also about the socio-economic impact on a large section of people. Documenting these trying times, and bringing back the tradition of cultural jathas, theatre group Samudaya will kick-start ‘Olithu Maadu Manusa – A Salute to the Working Class’ from Bengaluru to Heggodu on Friday. The group is working in collaboration with the Gram Seva Sangh.

Through theatrical performances, the artistes will highlight the problems created by the pandemic and the miseries faced by labourers, migrant workers, and rural artisans, as well as the social commitment exhibited by doctors, nurses, and the paramedical staff . The three-day jatha will culminate at Charaka in Heggodu, Sagar, on Sunday.

According to the group, “art is not for art’s sake, but for life’s sake.” The objective is to reach out to the masses, salute the people, and make this a confidence-building exercise for them. “At present, we are witnessing an onslaught by the pandemic, which is weakening our entire social system. Masks and sanitisers are our two weapons to face this contagion. There are also many attempts being made in the medical field to discover a vaccine to prevent this malady. Samudaya’s latest street play, Olithu Maadu Manusa, reflects some heart-rending incidents and the humane and inhumane reactions of our society in this period,” a statement from the group said.


Shashidhar Bharighat from Samudaya told The Hindu that the plan was to stage four plays a day. “There are 12 artistes and three singers. Wherever we are travelling, we will get many taluk headquarters. So we will put on shows wherever we can. Some local activists in those places will also be joining us,” he said.

He said their jathas were popular in the 1970s and ’80s. “This time, we are bringing stories around the pandemic, panning weavers, farmers, migrant workers, and the corona warriors. Social distancing has meant that even cremation is not possible normally. Many have also written poetry about these issues. So even those will be showcased,” he said.

The group is in its 44th year of existence now, but this will be a unique exercise, given the circumstances. “We are taking a lot of precautions — sanitisation of vehicle, ensuring masks are worn — as the artistes are working professionals, students etc.,” he said.

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Sagar Biswas

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