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Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Coronavirus outbreak: How the television industry is coping with the ‘no shoot’ directive

While many Indian and international films including Sooryavanshi, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, The Quiet Place 2 and Mulan among more have delayed their theatrical release, the luxury is not available to television shows, given that it airs multiple times a week. Also, reality shows follow the audience voting pattern, and need to film fresh episodes every week.

Written by Sana Farzeen | Mumbai | Updated: March 18, 2020 10:57:01 am
Saheer Sheikh, Rhea Sharma, Kaveri Oriyam and Ritvik Arora Saheer Sheikh, Rhea Sharma, Kaveri Oriyam and Ritvik Arora on the sets of Yeh Rishtey Hain Pyaar Ke.

On Sunday, several entertainment industry bodies announced that shoots of films, TV and web series would be put on hold from March 19 till March 31, owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

This decision was taken in a joint meeting between IMPPA (Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association), FWICE (Federation of Western India Cine Employees), IFTDA (Indian Film & Television Directors’ Association), IFTPC (Indian Film and Television Producers Council) and WIFPA (Western India Film Producers’ Association).

While many Indian and international films including Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi, YRF’s Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, The Quiet Place 2 and Mulan among more have delayed their theatrical release, the luxury is not available to television shows, given that it airs multiple times a week. Also, reality shows follow the audience voting pattern, and need to film fresh episodes every week.

When asked how will the television industry function, Chairman, TV-wing – IFTPC, JD Majethia told indianexpress.com, “We will shoot till Wednesday. So this week, and maybe for a few, it will be a couple of more episodes. Then the obvious choice is to rerun, but it will be interesting to twist and look at this as an opportunity to break the competition. For viewers too, it is a time to experiment and sample other channels’ successful shows, which they might have missed due to loyalty towards their favourites on the same time slot.” Majethia is known for creating shows like Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, Khichdi and Baa Bahu Aur Baby. He currently has Bhakharwadi on-air on SAB TV.

Due to the sudden move, Rajan Shahi postponed the launch of his upcoming show Anupamaa. His long-running serial Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai will now air for an hour till normalcy returns. In a statement, the producer spoke about the decision to halt shoot, “I totally agree and endorse the decision. In today’s time, prevention is the best thing. I am telling my family to avoid gatherings, so why should I not tell my other family, which is my unit.”

Earlier, Shahi had told us how his sets had upped precautionary measures to tackle coronavirus. “A few days back, we distributed masks on all our sets to keep the team protected. We have also got sanitisers placed around the set to keep up the hygiene level. Most importantly, we are focussing on awareness, as there shouldn’t be any kind of panic,” he shared.

TV show set Crew on the sets of a Swastik Productions show.

Zee TV has a plan in place to keep its audience entertained while they are confined to their homes. A spokesperson in a statement shared, “Keeping in mind the health and safety of all concerned, ZEE will stop all shoots in the timelines stipulated in the directive. In times where social distancing is the need of the hour to curb the outbreak of COVID-19 and people are spending more time indoors, the idea is to provide audiences with the most engaging entertainment for the entire family. There will be special episodes and excitement galore in store for viewers considering they will spend more time indoors and collective family time for TV is expected to increase.”

However, a few do feel that the decision would end up causing trouble for daily wage earners. Divya Drishti producer Mukta Dhond told indianexpress.com, “The health and wellness of this country are more important than a business or TV episodes. But we must also put some thoughts to help daily wagers, as not getting income is not a luxury that everyone can afford. A better exercise would have been to make the team follow a system where thermal scans, forehead thermometer or payment for COVID tests were provided. It would have been a more proactive way to deal with the situation. Because the virus is affecting their incomes as much as their health.”

Actors too have been putting extra hours on-set to ensure a bank of episodes for their shows. Tujhse Hai Raabta lead Sehban Azim told us, “It is crazy on the shoots as we are trying to cover up for the days we won’t be shooting. It is literally like the old saying- ‘the show must go on’. I hope we are able to finish all the episodes by tonight. I do believe it is important to take a break and be at home for everyone’s safety. It is a good decision by the federation. It is scary to be honest. At the same time, it is also concerning for people who work on daily wages, and are surviving on hand to mouth conditions. A large population of India consists of the labour class. I just pray that we get through this pandemic and everything goes back to normal soon.”

Supporting the move, Nia Sharma, who is seen playing the lead in Naagin 4, also shared, “I think it was the need of the hour as it is rightly said, better be safe than sorry! It is better to stay home and be safe, and resume work after a while than going to work risking one’s health. I also understand it is going to impact businesses and daily wagers, but the bigger perspective is ‘life’ here, which needs to be prioritised.”

tv actor coronavirus TV actors are taking precautions to tackle coronavirus outbreak.

And it is not just the cast and crew who are going the extra mile, but writers and creatives are also burning the midnight oil in the wake of coronavirus outbreak. Sharad Chandra Tripathi, who writes for multiple shows, said, “It has been difficult, but it is important that we do take a pause. It is a crucial time right now. We have stopped taking meetings and are rather sticking to video and conference calls. It is a war-like situation in the team, but everyone is trying to stretch for as long as they can. Let us see what happens in the coming days.”

Most fiction shows are shooting extensively to create a bank of episodes for the coming days, but reality shows will have a tough time in the coming days. Khatron Ke Khiladi 10 is already shot, and hence it will not get affected. Mujhse Shaadi Karoge will reportedly not air daily for the remaining period till it is on air. Sony TV’s India’s Best Dancer has an episode ready for this weekend’s telecast, but has cancelled its next shoot. As for Zee TV’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa LI’l Champs, the team shot for two episodes on Monday, and have episodes till the end of the month.

As per the press statement released by entertainment industry bodies, “The decision about restarting shootings shall be taken on March 30 after considering the prevailing situation.”

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