Bant: Despite struggling to make both ends meet, Bhaskar Jena – a retired opera artiste from Gharpada (Ranipur) village under Nilok panchayat in Bhadrak district finds it hard to stay away from opera. Art is an indispensable part of his life, he believes.
Bhaskar says his family’s abject penury forced him to discontinue his education after Class VII. To assist his parents in running the family, he joined Bant based ‘Odisha Opera’ – a theatre party.
Initially, he had to work without any payment. There he got to know clarinet player Udaynath Swain, a resident of Jaynagar area under Dhamnagar block. Swain accepted him as his disciple and taught him how to play clarinet. He was then only 26 years old when he started earning Rs 60 a month.
Later, he worked for several opera parties in north Odisha in a span of 15 years.
Bhaskar says, in olden times, the artists were used to living a tough life. “During my childhood days, plays were being staged under Petromax lamps and flambeau light. Now everything has changed, starting from decoration to style of presentation. “Introduction of computerised light decoration and electronic equipment have stepped up the game to a new level,” he said.
After spending a long 45 years in various opera parties, Bhaskar has stopped working owing to his advancing. That said, since he is a renowned clarinet player, local clubs and associations always seek his assistance whenever they are to stage any cultural programme.
“The financial issue continues to trouble my family. I am dependent on whatever little is grown on our minuscule farmland and a little earnings of my sons. Like me there are many such artistes who are living in abject poverty as they are not being recognised as artistes and thereby not being able to get any pension,” Bhaskar rued.