Many people in Mumbai, the hub of the entertainment industry, earn their bread and butter by working on film and TV sets. But life has changed drastically for a lot of them since the coronavirus brought the industry to a standstill in 2020. Movie theatres were closed — shootings and events were cancelled owing to the nationwide lockdown last year. It was only in June 2020 when the production of films and television programmes resumed after a three-month long hiatus. However, currently, with the imposition of stringent restrictions in Maharashtra in the wake of the rise in coronavirus cases; film and TV crew members continue to suffer.
Renu Pithva, who works as a costume stylist on the ongoing TV show Aur Bhai Kya Chal Raha Hai, shared her fears of losing work amid Covid-19 pandemic.
“I am nothing without this industry. I earn my livelihood here. Due to the industry shutdown, I had faced a lot of problems last year...used my savings to run my household. I can’t even think of sitting idle once again,” she said, urging everyone to follow safety protocols as “the industry can’t endure another halt”.
Another costume stylist, Priyanka Mishra expressed disappointment over “pay cuts” prevailing in the industry amidst Covid-19 pandemic.
“I am fortunate that I have work in hand. I know a lot of people who have lost their jobs due to Covid. But it hurts to receive less pay for your work. Sadly, there have been pay cuts in the industry. In fact, my work has increased a lot due to the sanitisation process. I sanitise all the costumes daily...I step out for sourcing the clothes… I am putting my health at risk, and in return, I am getting less than what I deserve. Currently, we end up spending more than what we are earning. Unfortunately, I don’t have a choice. I am working – that’s what matters the most in current times,” Priyanka stated.
On April 5, 2021, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government announced a week-end lockdown and night curfew in Maharashtra till April 30 in the wake of rising corona cases. The state government has not banned the shooting of films and TV shows but there have been several changes. Cinema halls have also been shut once again in the state. The latest developments have led to the postponement of several big budget movies – including Akshay Kumar-starrer Sooryavanshi, which was scheduled to release on April 30 – no new date has been announced as of yet.
Puneet Gupta, spokesperson for INOX Leisure Ltd, has explained how new restrictions would affect the business of cinema halls and multiplexes. “We generate a lot of revenue from the cinema halls in Maharashtra. Not only Hindi movies, regional movies, too, have a huge demand in the state. With the shutdown of cinema halls, our business will suffer for sure. No producer would want to release his/her movie in such times. Thankfully, the lockdown is till April 30 only,” he sighed.
Considering the situation of cine workers amidst the Covid-19 surge, BN Tiwari, President of Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE), has approached actor Salman Khan for help.
“We have been trying our best to look after the requirements of our workers in the Indian film industry. We have even approached Salman Khan. We have shared the details of our workers with him. He is one of the most humble actors... he had helped our workers last year too. I am sure he will also help this time,” Tiwari said.
Tiwari and other members of FWICE have requested the state government to set up vaccination centres in Film City.
“Due to curfew and restricted work shifts, it would be difficult for workers to travel outdoors to get vaccinated. Hence, I request the concerned authorities to set up vaccination centres in Film City too,” Tiwari added, revealing Yash Raj Films has decided to bear vaccination cost of their workers.
Strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) have also been designed for the shooting units across India.“We have devised strict SOPs for all the shoots. We will make sure no shoot commences without RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction). Large shoot shall be avoided. We will also take strict actions against violators,” Tiwari concluded.