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Bollywood in a bind due to new social distancing regulations

Production activities face new Covid-19 protocols before being allowed to resume.

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Raju Vernekar
Raju Vernekar
I am a mumbai based journalist having worked with many daily newspapers.

INDIA. Mumbai, Maharashtra. Production activities in Bollywood have been at a standstill for the last two months due to coronavirus concerns. Based in Mumbai and known for releasing over 1,000 films a year, the stringent new regulations stipulated by the Maharashtra Government have made a return to filming practically impossible.

Although the Government has permitted the media fraternity to resume shooting advertisements, TV, and web shows immediately, the filmmakers are reluctant to resume work. The government has asked them to shoot at Film City, located at Aarey Colony, Goregaon East in North Mumbai. However, a lengthy list of conditions has put a damper on aspiring film and TV serial makers.

The Age Bar.

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As per the guidelines, cast or crew members above the age of 65 years will not be allowed on the set. Any pregnant employee or an employee whose spouse is pregnant, will not be granted access. Children below 10 years of age will also not be allowed to enter. These age restrictions threatens to oust many, including megastar Amitabh Bachchan. It has put a question mark on his most popular quiz show, “Kaun Banega Crorepati.” The superstar is 78 years old and is involved in a sizable number of films. Besides Bachchan, there are many senior artists like Anupam Kher, Paresh Rawal, and Naseeruddin Shah who are engaged in ongoing film projects. Uncertainty also hangs over seasoned directors like Subhash Ghai and Mahesh Bhatt. It´s not clear whether the characters of “Mummy and Papa” will be out and whether or not the scripts will have to be returned.

Sets and Crew Also Face Challenges.

The amount of crew will be reduced by 33 percent. Crew members will have to maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet from each other while performing various activities. No audience will be allowed and no one can shake hands, kiss, or hug on the sets. Popular sequences such as marriages, markets, fighting, and elaborate dancing have been banned for the time being.

Casting will Become Virtual.

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Casting will be done remotely via Facetime, Zoom, or Skype. Remote casting sessions and callbacks with live broadcast capabilities will have to be used for the time being. If hard copies of scripts are distributed to the artists, they will have to be disposed of after reading. 

A Virus Friendly Makeup Process will be Implemented.

Disposable makeup kits and brushes will have to be used and the products will be mixed on a disposable palette. Only one brush or applicator will be used per artist to avoid cross-contamination. Makeup artists will have to wear personal protection equipment (PPE), and their work station must comply with appropriate social distancing measures.

New Healthcare Precautions on Set.

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At the moment, around 70 films and 110 TV serials have stopped production. The new regulations state that a producer must have an ambulance and a doctor available on the sets. The Aarogya Setu app, an Indian open source COVID-19 contact tracing system, will have to be installed on compatible devices and kept on throughout the day. A minimum of three washrooms will have to be made available, which must be sanitized every hour. In the event of a positive COVID-19 case, the infected person will be isolated and shooting will stop temporarily. Every visitor to the studio will be evaluated with an infrared thermometer to ascertain if they have a fever. Also, there will be an Oximeter available to measures oxygen saturation levels.

Outdoor shooting will be allowed elsewhere in Maharashtra, but companies will be required to seek the permission of the respective district collector. The Indian Film and Television Directors’ Association (IFTDA), Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association (IMPPA), and others have already urged Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to modify these guidelines so that filming can move at a faster pace.

In the meantime, some of the filmmakers have shifted their base from Mumbai to Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad, in South India, which offers multiple facilities in a single campus. IMPPA secretary Anil Nagrath said that even Karnataka and Punjab governments have been offering more flexible conditions to ensure that shooting continues.

With an oscillating number of cases, a dreaded second wave of the virus and new regulations looming, only time will tell what Bollywood will look like in the new normal that our world is steadily marching towards.

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