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TV broadcasters scramble to find shoot locations amid rising Covid cases

TV broadcasters are a worried lot as they try to figure out alternate locations to continue shoots of their TV shows even as various states and local bodies continue to impose strict restrictions due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the country.

Broadcasters don’t want a repeat of last year, when the pandemic-induced sudden nation-wide lockdown exposed their unpreparedness in terms of content pipeline.

This time, broadcasters said they were prepared. Once the shoots were allowed late last year, most started creating banks.

And while the Maharashtra government banned shooting in the state till April 30th, many were also ready with a contingency plan – moving the entire production units to places like Hyderabad, Goa, Chennai, Noida and Gujarat.

“Primarily a lot of shoots have moved to Goa and Hyderabad,” said Mautik Tolia, managing director of content production company Bodhi tree Multimedia. He said that right now all the parties – broadcasters, video streaming platforms and content producers – are working in the spirit of cooperation and understanding. “Essentially everyone is making sure that entertainment is provided to the masses.”

A senior executive in one of the top broadcast networks said that most of the channels in Hindi and Marathi genre have around two weeks’ worth of episodes in their bank. “As of today, most channels will have fresh episodes till May 15th plus/minus two days. However, the cost is spiralling up. If this continues or other states also put in restrictions, there will be a major problem,” he said.

While the extension of lockdown in Maharashtra was expected, a sudden five-day lockdown in Goa announced earlier this week and restrictions in Karnataka (upto May 14th) have caught the TV industry off guard. Many broadcasters are afraid of a few other states also following suit.

“We are not yet clear on whether shoots will be allowed or not in Goa and Karnataka, as unlike Maharashtra, the circulars don’t specifically restrict shoots. However, the cases in both these places are going up quite rapidly and many of our stars and crew members are also affected,” a senior executive of another broadcast network said.

Some of the shoots have shifted to Umbergaon in Gujarat, 150-kilometers from Mumbai, which has seen a lot of TV producers shooting lately.

“I am currently shooting at our Studio, Swastik Bhoomi in Umbergaon. Many other shoots have also moved here now as it’s a green zone and we are taking complete safety measures here,” said Siddharth Kumar Tewary, founder and director of Swastik Productions.

Some broadcasters are also worried about shoots in West Bengal, where the cases have increased rapidly since state elections.

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