As the second wave of Covid-19 in India appears to be receding, people have gradually started resuming work. The entertainment industry, which was also hit hard by the pandemic, is now trying to revive itself in the new normal. Recently, the Maharashtra government allowed the film and TV industry to restart production activities, but with restrictions. The permission has been given to shoot till 5 pm and that too in a bio bubble.
Filmmaker Ashoke Pandit, chief advisor of the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE), has positively reacted to the government's orders. “Workers of our industry are now breathing a sigh of relief. It was not at all easy for them to look after their family without earning for months. Government's decision of allowing shoot will surely bring things back on track. Being a chief advisor of FWICE, I have taken the government's instructions very seriously...we are constantly checking if proper safety protocols are being followed on the sets or not. We have even made vaccination mandatory for everyone...this will create seriousness among people who are coming to the sets for work. We are also making sure people don't breach the bio bubble format," Ashoke Pandit told the Cinema Journal.
For the unversed, a bio bubble is considered to be a safe and secure environment, which is created to isolate people from the outside world to minimise the risk of Covid-19 infection.
Explaining more about the bio bubble, Ashoke Pandit added, “Actors and workers won't be allowed to travel longer distances. Everything will be given to them in their bio bubbles. They won't be allowed to step out of their shooting premises. It would be new for many people, but these things are necessary to be implemented for our own safety.”
However, the restricted shooting timing is a matter of concern for Ashoke Pandit. “I really appreciate government for allowing us to resume shooting amid the pandemic, but the restricted shooting timing is still a problem. We have also requested Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to increase the time duration of the shoots to 12 hours. TV shows' makers come up with 22 minute long footage everyday. So, eight hours shooting time won't be enough for them...but yes this is a beginning. Giving us a permission to shoot is far better than not being allowed to shoot,” he said.
Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar has a similar opinion. According to him, the restricted timing and the concept of bio bubble would add more workload on everyone's shoulders.
“Because of the time restrictions one will have to make certain changes in the script and the restrictions will definitely somewhere hamper the creativity because we shoot the films according to actors' availability of dates. It will be a task to adjust and to make amendments in schedules of cast and crew. We will have to work around the new time limits and make changes in our shooting schedules. We have to shoot from morning 7 am to 5 pm. Night scenes, especially if you need to shoot in real time, would not be possible. It will be difficult for us a while for sure — for producers, directors, everybody — but safety is important too,” Madhur Bhandarkar highlighted.
Madhur Bhandarkar, who shot his upcoming film, 'India Lockdown', earlier this year amid the pandemic, opened up on the changes he brought on the sets in terms of safety. “We have to follow the protocols, the SOPs of the government, which are there. The second wave has impacted people very badly. Lives were lost. We need to be careful. I shot 'India Lockdown' in January and February this year and we ensured to follow all guidelines. We made the bubble and had restricted people on set. From now on we will try to be more stringent and work with limited crew.
“There would be challenges though... like say shooting a wedding scene, a party sequence or a scene that involves a huge crowd, etc., will become difficult. That will make the job harder because we will have to see how many people are allowed for such scenes and how to shoot them without getting into any danger. We will have to ensure Covid test before the shoots and try to take as much precautions possible even with those kind of scenes," he added.
Filmmaker Anees Bazmee has also expressed his view on the recent changes. “The government is also right on its part. It’s important to put restrictions in order to curb the spread of Covid-19, but it would be really difficult to work amid such restrictions. Budget would also increase due to this bio bubble factor…so a lot of discussion, planning is being done on how to take things forward. I won’t say that government has issued harsh orders... whatever decision has been taken must have been thought through by the government,” Anees Bazmee said.
On the other hand, actor-producer Nikhil Dwivedi is still sceptical to start production of his projects. “The situation is quite uncertain now… what if we start and then all of sudden we have to shutdown everything…so I am waiting for things to become normal. I am currently not sure about working amid the pandemic,” Nikhil shared.