Oct 3, 2008

Entertainment - India;TV Industry grinds to a halt

Ashwin Pinto

MUMBAI: Television and film production schedules have been hit with around 200,000 workers affiliated with the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) going on an indefinite strike from 1 October.

Speaking to Indiantelevision.com FWICE president Dharmesh Tiwari says that this is a non-co-operation move. The strike affects all 22 crafts including actors, technicians, and musicians.
"Last year we had signed an MoU with the four film producer associations. Despite that there are difficulties," he pointed out.

He notes that television producers shoot for as much as 30 hours at a stretch. This is despite the fact the fact that the limit is eight to 10 hours. Then there is the fact that payments come in after 120 days. "In the interim we pay money for conveyance from our own pocket. There are also agents involved when we have told producers that workers should be paid directly." Another grouse is that often workers not affiliated with the FWICE are employed by producers. These workers are paid less than what is stipulated in the MoU.
The key question is how have television producers been affected? Producer Rajan Shahi who has the number one show Bidaai on Star Plus admits that he is badly affected by the strike. "I had to shoot this very important scene and had erected a very costly set. Now with the cine employees going for a strike I will have to bear a major financial loss."
He adds that some of his actors are going out of Mumbai for a week tomorrow evening about which they had informed him beforehand. "Now with the shooting coming to an idefinite halt I don’t know how I will shoot the sequence. Had I been in the loop I could have extended the shooting. I have not been informed officially about it.
"What does a producer like me do who abides by all the laid down rules? I have strictly asked my people to hire only those who are the members of the association be it art director, associate director or anyone for that matter. Also I have no outstanding payments and I have often been commended for this. To top it all I have not got the correct picture of the whole thing."
He says that the stakeholders need to work in an organised way. One must look at every aspect other than the payment and hours of working. The association and the federation need to sit across and solve the issues amicably.
"But one has to understand that the solutions and rules have to be practical and not hypothetical. Something that looks good on paper might not be practical and logical. One has to consider and take into the account the current view of the market and how it functions. What would happen to those who run their houses on daily wages or need money for an emergency?
"Had they told me about such an outcome I would have worked pro-actively and made a proper account. Generally, I have four episodes in the bank but with the shooting coming to a halt for two days it would definitely affect the telecast. In case of Bidaai, either my script will be altered or the episodes will have to be changed."
Associate producer of BR Films Surinder Malhotra who has a daily show Sujata currently on air says, “We have only tomorrow’s episode and no further bank. I feel that this strike is a fight against the channel.”
Creative Eye Producer Dheeraj Kumar who has five shows on air (Betiyaan, Veeranwali, Maayka, Jai Maa Vaishnodevi, Waqt) says, “We have a bank of 3-4 episodes for all our shows but it is not a relief. With the help of the television federation, we should ensure that the matter gets resolved. It is a loss to the production house as well as to the workers.”
Shakuntalam Telefilms' Shyam Bhattacharya says that the production house has a bank of two days for its shows such as Dulhann (Zee), Bandhan (Colors) and Santan (Star Plus). "However, thereafter it will be trouble for us. No channel is keen to show a repeat telecast. We spent Rs 5 lakh to create a set in Kamalistan studio for Dulhann. The shoot was to commence today but there is nothing we can do now."
He adds that a meeting between the channels, production houses and FWICE is likely to take place on 4 October 2008. On his part Tiwari says that if a meeting is called between the different parties then the FWICE would be willing to come to the table.(With inputs from Mayur Lookhar, Anjum Farookhi, Neha Maheshwri)

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