Since 1959, the Sri Gol Deval Sarvajanik Utsav Mandal has been hosting Garba, and their Navratri decorations had quality roses. The festivities included a bhandara (free food for the poor) for 2,000 people.
Facing a cash crunch this year, dry fruits in laddoos have vanished. The Mandal avoided even the roses, and ordered marigold. The bhandaras were cut to half. With big sponsors backing out, and shop owners cutting down on donations by 50 per cent, big and small Garba mandals hosting Dandia are struggling to float.
“We have around 100 shop owners complaining of a decline in business. Most of them refused to give donations. The rest agreed to halve or even bring down donations. Such a scenario has never been seen, not even during the 2008 recession,” says Roopesh Khandke, organiser of Gol Deval mandal.
At the Carnival Raas Jalsa in suburban Vile Parle, where Bollywood singer Bhoomi Trivedi and Gujarati folk singer Osman Mir will sing, tickets are getting sold for Rs 350 onwards, an estimated 50 per cent decline. Trivedi has settled for Rs 40 lakh and Mir for Rs 21 lakh. Organisers complained that while rates for construction of stage and cost for a music band increased two-fold, sponsorship from builders cut drastically.
“The band charges have risen from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 30 lakh this year, while cost of Garba stage grew from Rs 6 per square feet to Rs 30. This year, there are no sponsors. Every year, we collect Rs 2 to 3 crore, and this year we hardly managed Rs 30-40 lakh. Organisers have to pay from their own pockets,” said Bhargav Patel, Jalsa’s organiser.
According to him, this year, commercial garba mandals will not make much profit. Falguni Pathak will perform at Ghatkopar Gujarati Samaj’s festival. The daily tickets cost Rs 200 per person and season tickets is being sold at Rs 2,000. Last year, Pathak performed at the Goregaon Sports Club where season tickets cost was Rs 4,000 per person.
With sponsors reeling under economic losses, Pathak has been asked to bear the expenditure on light and sound system at Ghatkopar grounds, which will be close to Rs 15 lakh. She is getting paid Rs 71 lakh, a drop from over Rs 1 crore she usually charges. Confirming the drop in sponsorship, organiser Pravin Chheda said, “The construction industry and even private individuals want to keep themselves out of the Navratri loop this year. We have cut down on advertisements to save funds.”
The Ghatkopar-based mandal, running for 17 years, has witnessed a 60 per cent decline in sponsorship. Chheda is still hopeful, “At least on the weekend, we hope to see 20,000 people.”
Pankaj Kotecha, organizer of the Garba at Kora Kendra, Borivali, which reportedly costs the highest at Rs 3,000, admitted that getting sponsors was difficult. Nilesh Thakkar, Jayesh Desai, Preeti Savla, Chetan Gadhavi, and Gujarati folk singer Nirupama Rege will perform.
“We introduced free vouchers for stay in resorts and online purchases,” he said. Previously going house-full without freebies, this year, a person buying Kora Kendra’s season pass for Rs 3,000 has to be lured with options like a day’s stay in a Virar resort, or a short animation course or free online merchandise. “It seems festivities will decline due to the market situation,” Kotecha adds.
Another organiser, Prerna Raas Navratri Utsav, at Mulund, slashed the nine-day season pass by 20 per cent to Rs 1,000. Singers such as Mahesh Gadhvi and Hanif Aslam have chosen Gujarat. “This year, several artistes have gone to Gujarat. Not only is the market down, but we have been searching for famous artistes in Mumbai,” said corporator Manoj Kotak, who organises Garba in Mulund, adding singer Umesh Barot has been invited this time.