Mumbai's deluge leaves TV industry reeling

When it rains, it pours. Just as Mumbai's television industry was in the process of picking up the pieces left after the ravages of last Tuesday's Great Deluge, a heavy downpour again flooded the city Monday, slowing down repair efforts in India‘s entertainment capital.

(Picture by Swapna Dongre)

Virtually all broadcasters have been hit to varying degrees courtesy the rising waters on Mumbai's streets. So too have several production houses and post-production studios. More so because most of the industry is located in two strips, one in the northern part of Mumbai - covering Andheri, Goregaon, Chembur - and the other in central Mumbai - covering Lower Parel and Mahalaxmi. These suburbs have been among the worst affected with flooded waters rising to as much as six to 10 feet on torrid Tuesday.

Among the worst hit broadcasters has been Sony, whose head offices in Andheri West is still knee deep in water. But that hasn‘t kept the Sony show from going on. Says SET COO NP Singh, "We were impacted for a short while. But we have managed to ensure fresh programming on air. Our studios were flooded with water, but we quickly refurbished it. A part of our library archives have been lost and the extent of the loss is still under evaluation. Apart from that, furniture, company cars, and infrastructure have been damaged."

ETC Networks also suffered as regards its archives, with 40 per cent of its content library ruined. According to an ETC spokesperson, though they managed to shift their expensive equipment, ETC‘s in-house studios were badly damaged, as too the permanent set of their show Kahani Kismat Ki.

As far as stakes go however, the biggest worry must obviously be for lead broadcaster Star. More so since the city has been inundated at a time when the media noise around the second coming of KBC on 5 August was just about peaking. The positive of course is that with everyone stuck indoors, on air promo activity for KBC 2 across the Star network would have had maximum impact.

The grand set for ‘KBC2‘ stands untouched

Talking of KBC, Star India EVP content and communications Deepak Segal expressed relief over the fact that apart from power cuts and leakages, the sets are still pretty much intact as it is on a high rise in Film City in Goregaon. Crucially, Star has managed to coax a few dates from Amitabh Bachchan to make up for the lost days, which was quite a task. Overall, says Segal, there will be a one week lag loss in terms of ad sales and programming across the industry.

As far as Star‘s soaps are concerned, Segal says, "Things are pretty bad, but I have managed tapes till Wednesday (3 August). If the rains persist it could spell trouble though. The sets that have been badly damaged are those of Kasautii Zindagi Kay, Kesar and Bhabhi.

Segal‘s worry over the persistent rains was echoed by Zee TV programming head Ashwini Yardi, "If the rains continue like this, there will be a problem as shooting is effected."

‘Kareena Kareena‘ crew in happier times

Overall though, Zee seemed to be better off than Star or Sony. Said Yardi, "We have a bank of episodes so programming hasn‘t really taken a beating. Although Kareena Kareena was badly effected. On Wednesday, Tuesday‘s repeat was telecast. From Thursday, everything came back to normal."

Another relatively fortunate channel was Sahara One. Said Sahara One Television COO Purnendu Bose, "Three shows of Sahara One suffered - Dial One Aur Jeeto, Raat Hone ko Hai and Bole Sitare. Four episodes of Raat Hone ko Hain were repeated. Dial One Aur Jeeto was not aired on Tuesday (26 July), instead emergency programming comprising movie songs were aired in that slot."

Bose had a word of praise for the way the actors have cooperated during these trying times. Giving an example, he said, "Aman Verma came to the studios even today (Monday) when it was raining heavily and shot for us."

The rains seem a worry for this vamp too (on the sets of Kasautii..)

Not surprisingly, soap factory Balaji Telefilms was hard hit. Says Balaji deputy creative director Nivedita Basu, "The TRPs for the next two weeks are most definitely going to fall. And it will take up to another two weeks to come back on track, considering Mumbai contributes a significant chunk of viewers. Our permanent sets in Sankraman Studios (in Goregaon‘s Aarey Milk Colony) - Kasautii Zindagi Kay, Kkusum and Kesar - are badly damaged. The electrical panels have collapsed, furniture, carpets and other props are now unusable. Last week, on Wednesday every show of ours was a repeat except for Kyunki… The creative team is under a lot of pressure and we are shooting round the clock to finish our backlogs. For the sets that have been damaged, we are shooting at Balaji itself and are trying to avoid outdoor locations.

Also hard hit was Anurradha Prasad‘s BAG Films. Said Prasad, "A lot of property has been damaged. Dekho Magar Pyaar Se‘s set in Beach House near Madh Island has been worst hit. Shooting has been stopped. Damage has been caused by the rain and also due to short circuits."

Kumkum stranded

"The set of Kumkum was not too badly affected but the set is in the low lying area of Andheri so people couldn‘t reach the shoot. The main protagonist Juhi Parmar was stranded as the lane near her house was totally submerged in water," she added.

"For Rihaee, we were shooting outdoors and the place where we were shooting was submerged in water. So we couldn‘t shoot."

‘Rihaee‘‘s cast ponder over the rains

"For these shows we had some amount of bank but that is what has sustained us since the rains hit Mumbai last Tuesday. But if the rains don‘t stop then we will face a major problem as we can‘t carry on with shooting in this rain. The problem with a daily show is that it is not easy to have a bank because we are anyways shooting round the clock. Our people are ready to work but the situation doesn‘t permit us to carry on with work. We‘re just praying that it stops raining," said Prasad.

Wedding planners!

Meanwhile, it‘s been all pain in the rains for two of Sony‘s biggest shows - Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin and reality drama Fame Gurukul. Says Jassi producer Tony Singh of DJ‘s Creative Unit, "The Jassi... sets, which are located at Powai, have undergone a lot of damage due to flooding and the muck that entered the studio. Shooting was cancelled Wednesday. We are slightly lucky though as the present track is heading towards Jassi and Armaan‘s wedding. So we anyway had to use other locations like hotels and Armaan‘s house. Tomorrow (Tuesday), we will be shooting three units simultaneously and I am keeping my fingers crossed that everything is on schedule."

A shoot for a new Zee show, which was scheduled to start last week, has also been delayed because of the rains, Singh said.

Speaking about Fame Gurukul, Miditech‘s Nikhil Alva said, "The Fame Gurukul sets were three feet under water and shooting was disrupted. We also lost a Saara Akash crew member Meenal who died locked in her car. Since the Fame Gurukul contestants were stuck in Kolkata and could not manage to fly into Mumbai, we had to do telephonics with them from there. Our set is in Saki Naka (Andheri East) which was one of the worst hit areas, and power supply was totally cut off, but we managed to organise diesel generators and kept the studio running and the show went on."

As it did at Future Communications which runs its studio (commonly referred to as the Jaipan studio) in the suburb of Goregaon. It was flooded and promoters Mona Kapoor and Archana Shourie had to switch off the electric supply to the floors to prevent any shortcircuit or harm to those filming there on 26 and 27 July. According Kapoor, the two days were a total washout as shootings had to be called off. "We actually faced revenue losses," she says. "In fact we have not charged our clients for the 26th as shooting was disrupted in the middle due to heavy rainfall."

She, however, worked overtime along with her staff and sister Shourie to get the studios up and running. "Things returned to normal by 28 July and the floors were running choc-a-bloc on 1 August," she adds. "We got calls from some large productions who were having problems with their own shooting floors as they were not available or were damaged. But we had to turn them away as we had been sold out already."

20-30% loss in ad sales across channels

It is not just production but advertising revenues that have been impacted by the skies shedding buckets. Star India EVP ad sales Kevin Vaz said, "Client campaigns have been pushed back because of the delay in the productions of commercials, courier services getting effected and final edits of tapes not taking place on schedule. There will be a dip in inventory and I would estimate a 20-30 per cent loss across channels. But considering July is not a peak season, it can be recovered in the coming weeks if things stabilise."

SET EVP ad sales and revenue management Rohit Gupta voiced similar sentiments saying, "We were able to send our Release Orders and in any case July is relatively not a peak month. There will definitely be some impact though."

Zee TV EVP network sales Joy Chakkraborthy said his team had been putting its best efforts to brave the situation with the help of mobile phones. "Getting to office has become very difficult in these conditions. People attended office on Friday (29 July) and Saturday (30 July) -- the days when the climate was relatively better -- to clear the backlog. Otherwise, the team has been functioning from home, making the best use of cellular phones for communication. We have our deals done in advance and hence the calamity hasn‘t affected the business much. Some urgent deals have been done on phone and old commercials have been used."

I&B allows direct uplink 

Star‘s Segal said that due to extreme circumstances, the I&B ministry had granted permission for a couple of days to entertainment channels to directly uplink their tapes to their respective uplinking hubs. Star is currently uplinking tapes to Hong Kong through VSNL. "The scene has been pretty bad and one has been working via e-mail and the mobile. Tapes are coming in slowly," Segal pointed out.

On the other hand, Sahara One has its uplinking set up in Film City in Mumbai from where Dial One Aur Jeeto is usually uplinked to Noida and is then downlinked from there. Apart from Dial One… the other shows are usually uplinked from Noida itself. For the last one week though, Raat Hone KO Hai and Bole Sitare were also uplinked to Noida from the Film City uplinking facility, Bose said.

Just what the accumulated losses Mumbai‘s deluge has wreaked on the industry remains a matter of speculation at this juncture but figures in the region of Rs 500 million seem plausible.

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