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Film industry in a tizzy after actors, technicians test positive

The Indian film industry is once again staring at major losses amid rising second wave of Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra and other states with a bunch of actors and crew members testing positive for the virus, bringing entire shooting schedules to a grinding halt.

Many producers have said Covid-related delays in shootings, cancellation of shoot locations, delay in film release etc are already resulting in production costs spiralling up.

“Right now, there is no telling when the situation is going to improve and I guess the least we can do is try to be optimistic,” said Siddharth Roy Kapur, president of the Producers Guild and founder & MD of Roy Kapur Films.

He added that all the producers have been advised to adhere to the stringent guidelines, including not having large crowds on sets or shooting sequences with too many people, and ensuring Covid protocols are maintained.

“We recognise that the epidemic is rampant, and we have to take all the measures. But we also must be mindful of the fact that it is inevitable, and even after following all the protocols, people are getting infected. Producers are taking it on the chin and trying to move along,” he said.

Roy Kapur said every producer and studio has started factoring in the cost, which could be as high as 10-20% of overall production cost.

While producers are putting up a brave face, the uncertainty on the availability of actors and technicians is making a lot of them panic.

“At present we are working with a lot of uncertainty,” said Ajit Andhare, COO, Viacom18 Studios. “We have large films and web series on floor and the situation is quite tense, but we have to deal with it. We are taking it one day at a time. Every day when we wrap-up, it is a relief!”

Andhare also pointed out that while there are talks of implementing bio bubbles, there is a big affordability question attached to it. “Even a small film requires a crew of 60-70 people and every film/series may not be able to afford a bio bubble,” he said.

Shariq Patel, chief business officer, Zee Studios, said anytime a major character in a movie is tested positive, the shooting pauses. “Right now, it’s all stopping and resuming. There is an impact on both cost and time.”

Patel added that Zee Studios is currently trying to wrap up all the films that the company has on the floors. “We will wait and watch before starting new projects,” he said.

Many film stars, including Akshay Kumar, Alia Bhatt, Govinda, Vicky Kaushal, Katrina Kaif and Bhumi Pednekar have tested positive for the virus in the last week, putting many film shoots on hold.

Film pundits believe that this time the situation is grimmer as big actors may start avoiding shoots again.

“The virus is not sparing anybody and while technicians and crew members can be rested and replaced, the stars and directors cannot be. Plus, they can afford to say no to shoots, which will delay the entire film,” said Shaaminder Malik, independent film distributor.

He added that while ready-to-release films will get delayed, it’s the under production films like ‘Prithviraj’, ‘Atrangi Rey’, ‘ Bhool Bhulaiyaa2’, ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’, Brahmastra’ and ‘Ram Setu’ that will get delayed, causing a gap in the release window next year.

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