The second COVID wave has struck several parts of the world and there’s no denying that we in India have been warned of one such, deadlier than the first, having come at striking distance. With infected cases surging across the country and Delhi-Ahmedabad calling in night curfews – for all you know we might already be in the second wave. Add this to the sudden growth in the graph of COVID cases all over the world, the question which every industry that opened is asking: Did we start a trifle early? Should we have rather waited for a while?
The same applies to Bollywood as the industry got into action with several newly erected sets in various parts of the world and called for ‘Lights, Camera, Action’. That most of them from the film world won’t admit to it is obvious, but sources tell ETimes that all producers/financiers who opened their safety vaults to shell out money assuming that we’ve covered 65-70 per cent of the distance in this on-going war are now having sleepless nights. Will we have to shut shop and sit at home again? That’s one thought which continues to bother them, however hard they try. It’s trippy, very trippy at the moment. Financier Narendra Hirawat confirms the twist in the tale and goes on record to say, “Fear has taken over people’s minds. We were thinking that our Bollywood movies will start seeing the light of day from December but now that Corona is painting a different picture, we wonder whether theatres will come on track even in March.” Reliance Entertainment’s CEO Shibasish Sarkar, who is holding onto ’83 and ‘Sooryavanshi’ for theatrical releases, responds, “It’s extremely tricky at the moment. There is a certain amount of pessimism. It is definitely a matter of concern. I have no choice but to remain optimistic. But worse, there is no end date in sight to this ordeal.” Kabir Khan‘s ’83 was postponed only recently and the film will not keep its Christmas appointment either.
Life has to move on with practical precautions
Are we seeing some torchbearers to the phrase: When the going gets tough, the tough gets going? Tanuj Garg, who is all into the pre-production work of Taapsee Pannu starrer ‘Looop Lapeta’, tells ETimes, “Bollywood like most other industries waited for seven months before trying to limp back to normalcy. Eventually, in the new normal, life has to move with the practical precautions and everyone will have to learn to adapt.” Ahmed Khan’s set for ‘Om: The Battle Within’ in Mumbai’s Film City is fast getting ready and Khan is waiting for Sanjana Sanghi to arrive from Delhi so that he can start shooting with Aditya Roy Kapur from December 3. Both Garg and Khan will obviously take all precautions. ETimes has it that Ramesh Taurani has strengthened his team in ‘Bhoot Police’ in Himachal Pradesh- by appointing six people to only sanitise the belongings plus the rest of the things on the set and check the oxygen levels of the entire cast and crew- which he confirms and adds, “Bollywood didn’t start early, TV industry did.”
An actor recently tested positive and 14 days of shoot went for a toss
But is that enough? India is apparently registering quite a few COVID cases on the sets, which are going unreported, simply because the person infected is not a known actor. Not only unknown actors but it is possible that some popular faces have been infected and we might not have known simply because they were asymptomatic and had sworn all the people around them to secrecy. Hirawat makes a big revelation that recently in a film he’s financing, an actor got COVID, owing to which at least 14 days of his shoot went haywire. “I cannot disclose the actor’s name but he tested positive for COVID and a lot of scenes had to be shuffled and things went into disarray,” said Hirawat.
25 more films will go on OTT if things are not fine by January
So now do we live with the fear that one might take the virus home and infect the entire family? Trade analyst Komal Nahata sighs and defends, “The answer to your question is ‘yes’. But if we don’t start work then
one’s mental frame of mind will go for a toss. Stars may have money but they’re humans. They can’t be only sitting at home and reading scripts. What’s the point in reading the scripts of movies which don’t have a date of when they’ll go on floors? It’s a very sad world we’re living in. It’s such a feeling of disappointment especially towards evenings, and mind you, the same feeling was being experienced by a leading filmmaker who was talking to me the other day despite the fact that his film is fully ready and up for release on OTT. But having said that, if things don’t improve by January end, I tell you 25 more films will strike a deal with OTT platforms. Until then I think that closure and opening of shoots will keep alternating and consequently the end result will be slow pace and fewer films.”
Actors are negotiating different fees for theatres and OTT
A source reveals, “Whether the industry started early or late, now many producers have made up their mind that they cannot stop shooting. They have to make their projects and they are absolutely ready to sell them to OTT, which includes even those who are starting to shoot now. Who knows how long this will take to overcome? So, the actors are very much in the loop that their film might straight go to OTT even at a later date this year. In fact, two prices have been set for the actors- a price X if the film lands up in the theatres and a price HIGHER than X if it lands up on OTT. The streaming platforms have in turn agreed to buy films at higher rates from the producers, more than what they gave to the recent crop of movies which they bought from March 2020 to December 2020. Did you know that a certain actor is said to have delayed his film which was partially shot before March and has been spending time in meetings of OTT- produced feature films?”
We are gripped with fear, but can the film industry operate from home?
Eschewing Tanuj’s sentiment that life has to go on, Ahmed Khan reasons, “Look at the number of daily wage earners in our industry. Each one of us here has a responsibility towards his family. Only if bosses earn, his/her staff will get their dues in their kitty. We had to start work. We will not venture into the cities and countries where the numbers are shooting up again. Darr toh ab lag raha hai (Everyone is scared), but how can the film industry operate from home?”
People are out and about with a death warrant on their name
Endorsing Ahmed’s thoughts but not before analysing the whole scenario, Mumbai’s Lilavati Hospital’s Dr Jalil Parkar’s comments to ETimes strongly suggest that Bollywood cannot be blamed as the behaviour of every industry influences the other. FYI, Pulmonologist Dr Parkar himself is a COVID survivor having had a severe attack of the virus in June. “The picture is bigger. Frustration of the people is coming out in every strata and sector because they have been confined to an extent at which the human being cannot behave normally. A stage has arrived where many are questioning the results of the precautions they took. So many people, including actors, followed every rule but yet got infected. So now you see, the gates have been pushed open almost everywhere. The migrants who went back are now coming out again and travelling to distant places to earn something substantial. People are out and about with a death warrant on their name. Elders at home are fed up that nobody is taking them out despite the fact that everything has opened up. Coming back to the film industry, everybody is not a big star who can sustain for so long. Think of it, I think every actor has certain expenses which he/she cannot avoid, they all need to look a certain way which in turn requires their hairdressers and fitness trainers to also be set into motion. What I want to underline here is that this does not mean that we should throw our hats into the ring; sanity must prevail.”
Frequent tests of COVID on film shoots are as necessary as they were in IPL
Dr Pratit Samdani from Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital who headed the eco-bubble formation in the recently concluded IPL (Indian Premier League) held in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, says, “We tested each and everyone in the IPL eco-bubble every seven days. There is a need for frequent testing of each and every person on the film sets where the shootings have begun. I cannot say that the test should be repeated in how many days as I wouldn’t know the dynamics and the numbers of the people involved but it has to be done again and again till the shoot is over. There is also a need for each and every person to have tested negative on COVID before he/she joins the shoot. Post this, they need to press on sanitisation and social distancing as much as possible. And the filmmaker should not change his/her team, by which I mean even technicians and spotboys cannot be hired and fired. If anybody is joining from any other city, especially a red zone, he/she should be preferably isolated for seven days. Everyone has to behave as if he/she is in an eco-bubble. But I don’t think that Bollywood started early.” Fine, but the million-dollar question here is: Are producers ready to bear the high cost of testing so much?
Sarkar returns to say, “It is clear that nothing will settle down, neither the numbers nor the fear, until we get the vaccine. There are quite a few COVID vaccines which are on the anvil. We hope we have clarity soon.”
Few filmmakers like Rakesh Roshan have still decided to wait it out- Hrithik Roshan-led ‘Krrish 4’ would have mostly been on the verge of getting underway if there was no new normal- but perhaps that could be for personal reasons. However, when contacted, Roshan Senior categorically said, “I can’t talk on behalf of others but I will start only when things start subsiding.” So what did we make of it? Reckless or helpless? Or both? Nahata also comes back and if you sit back and think, gives us truly the last word on this #BigStory, “This topic is a larger debate and will still remain undecided. You can’t say who’s right and who’s wrong. Nobody is right and nobody is wrong. Everyone is right and everyone is wrong.”
Amen. Let us pray.
Source From : Times Of India