India has been on a total pause mode since mid-March, and that also includes film shoots/post-production activities in Mumbai. Although the film industry’s representatives are in discussion with the Maharashtra government about resuming work in a limited manner, there’s yet to be a green signal. But on Monday, Akshay Kumar and filmmaker R Balki hit the film sets, at Kamalistan studio, to shoot an ad campaign for the Health Ministry. The team, of course, took all the necessary precautions, including social distancing, wearing masks and working with minimal crew.
Now, the big question is: is this going to be the ‘new normal’ vis-à-vis res-starting work on films? “For me, it was great to discover how to go about things in a ‘new’ set-up – be it maintaining social distancing and hygiene on a film set, and working with a minimal crew. We got used to it in a few minutes. Even the main idea of social message film is that people – wherever possible – need to get back to work with all the precautions in place. We can’t be sitting at home forever,” says Balki.
Besides hygiene and social distancing, ensuring minimum crew is going to be biggest change on a Hindi film set, which is used to having an average of 200-250 people around. “I feel this should have happened anyway. Our sets were always overloaded with just too many people. Now that with hygiene and safety being of paramount importance, we have to get used to smaller crews,” says filmmaker Nikkhil Advani, who has multiple shows and films, including Arjun Kapoor-Rakul Preet Singh yet untitled starrer, in various stages of production.
Industry insiders maintain that producers and other film representatives are ready to “keen to kick-start work with all the safety precautions in place” considering a number of films such as Mumbai Saga, Radhe, Laal Singh Chaddha, Brahmastra, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, Mimi and others are stuck in-between. “See, this is going to be a ‘new normal’ and we have to get used to it. After all, the safety and well-being of people comes first. And by now, everyone is extremely aware of the required safety/precautions,” says trade analyst Taran Adarsh.
But won’t minimizing crew size impact many people badly? “Maybe, we can use the crew members on a rotational basis – at least on films that require a few days’ work – so that everyone gets to work. Our sets were anyway quite unsafe and unhygienic. This will bring in a lot of discipline,” says Advani. Balki puts things in perspective, by saying: “A smaller crew size will only make us work more efficiently.”
A date with June?
A couple of days back, the Producers Guild of India came up with an exhaustive ‘Back to Action’ report highlighting standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be instituted whenever the government gives the permission to resume film production activities. Now, the insiders maintain that the industry representatives and producers are “confident that permissions will come in soon, and that the work will start by June 15.” The insider adds: “The government has been promised that all the safety/hygiene measures will be in place, and is to be followed in the strictest manner.”