The massive outbreak of coronavirus across the world has left most wondering what the coming months will look like. It has been over two months since the Prime Minister announced a nationwide lockdown and like every other sphere, the Mumbai-based television industry too took a hit like never before.
Some TV producers say that they were anticipating the spread of coronavirus and a total lockdown which forced them to halt shoots during mid-March. Some others said that the spread of the contagion hit them and left the whole team bewildered. A few managed to bank episodes till the end of March but they didn’t expect the lockdown to go on for so long and with every passing extension, things look grimmer.
With shoots on hold, TV actors, too, have been left without work. Nikhil Khurana, who has worked in popular shows such as Yeh Hai Aashiqui and Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya, says he is juggling with flight cancellations as he is trying to fly back home. Khurana tells The Quint, “There are so many of my actor friends who are still awaiting payments. There’s no work and it looks like things will take a while to kickstart”.
In the TV industry, the payment cycle usually runs on a 3-month credit period, from when shoot date rolls till when an artist gets paid. TV Producers say that the broadcasters release the payments after a credit period of 45 days and cite that as one of the reasons for paying the actors and other technicians on the sets after a three-month credit period.
Another famous TV actor who wished to stay anonymous told The Quint that she hasn’t received her full payment from December. “This lockdown has affected all big and small actors. My monthly payments have been very, very delayed and all dues are not yet cleared. I have been assured by the producer that they will release the payments once the offices open,” she says.
Popular actor Eijaz Khan who has been a part of the industry for about two decades, says that actors will have to take pay cuts when work resumes. “I am in talks with a producer for a web series I might do, and I am willing to take a pay cut for the same. The producer told me that they have slashed budgets,” he tells us.
When asked if TV shoots will see a change considering you can’t work at the same pace and with the same strength, Eijaz says, “We adapt in television and that’s how people have survived over the years. In television, the lead actors don’t come on the sets at the same time. You shoot the close-up. On the set, you have the actor, cameraman, director and two lightmen. I have shot like that. You start with the close-up and finish the whole scene. And they shoot similarly with the other actor on a close-up and then do a quick editing. That becomes a scene. This can be worked out. We will have to avoid master shots and we will have to work out these things now.”
Eijaz also adds that TV doesn’t have the luxury of time and he’s shot till 8:30 pm for a 9:00 pm telecast when he was doing Kkavyanjali with Balaji Telefilms.
Actor Neha Pendse, who has been a part of multiple TV serials and also Bigg Boss 12, opens up that payments in the industry have been delayed, but she is hopeful that they will come. “I have shot for a film and my parts are complete but I haven’t received the payment. I don’t doubt their integrity but right now everyone is citing operational reasons for not being able to pay at the moment. Under normal circumstances, I would have received the payments by now,” says Pendse.
Neha also told The Quint that she has been offered a TV show and the money offered has been reduced. She says that the producers are also in a fix because budgets have been slashed and they have the added responsibility of taking all the safety measures which are of utmost importance right now. Neha has requested for an approximate two month waiting period from the producers before she gets down to shooting the show. “I have requested them to give me a month or two to consider the offer and if they have to lock things, then they can consider another artiste,” the actor informs us.
“If you are an actor who has funds to sustain for a few months, I don’t think anyone will be willing to risk his or her life and go for a shoot. I think everything boils down to how financially secure you are at the moment,” says Neha.
While actors like Neha are in a position to choose, there are many others who fear work will shrink for them when projects go on the floor. A supporting actor who chose to be anonymous told The Quint that he has borrowed around Rs 2 lakhs from the market and he is trying to help his technician friends in the business and fulfilling the needs of his family.
“I am trying to do the best I can but the fear that haunts me is if the industry will still need actors like me. I have been a part of this industry for about 40 years now and have been working since I was a child. I don’t know anything other than acting. But this pandemic has left me and so many others like me troubled about our livelihoods. There are costs which I can’t do away with like rent, electricity bills, education fees and if the lockdown continues with no work coming our way, people like me will be on the streets, with nowhere to go,” he says.
Actor Karan V Grover, seen in daily soaps like Kahaan Hum Kahaan Tum on Star TV, says he has been lucky as far as payments are concerned. Talking about his producers Karan says, “Honestly I have been extremely lucky and my experience has been positive. My producers, Sandiip Sikcand, Kamna and Fazila, have been considerate and understanding.”
Producers across the board, films or TV, are now eager to get back in business with TV production. The guidelines from the Maharashtra government on shooting of TV shows and films are expected to be formally announced now that the Producers Guild Of India and IMPPA have shared a detailed list of safety measures that they will ensure on TV and film sets.