Television

Throwing light on the TV Producers-Actors MoU

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MUMBAI: A lot of dust has been raised in the media recently about the memorandum of understanding (MoU) inked between the Cine & TV Artistes Association (CINTAA), the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE), and the Indian Film and TV Producers? Council (IIFTPC) on 1 May.

While producers claim the MoU (indiantelevision.com is in possession of the original copy) aims at creating a more efficient and frictionless system with respect to parameters like employment and wages, shifts and work schedules and working conditions, actors are crying foul over perceived injustices meted out to them in it.

Referring to the hue and cry over the ?three-year contract? clause in the MoU, FWICE president and CINTAA Hon general secretary Dharmesh Tiwari cautioned that actors have misunderstood the clause. He pointed out that the MoU requires only five lead actors, as decided by the producer, to sign the three-year contract with him/her.

?There has been a lot of confusion in the artistes? minds regarding the clause. The real intention is: if a show runs for three years, the contract gets renewed every year but only for the main four to five lead actors. A producer has to let go of the other actors after a couple of months, so that they can work elsewhere,? explained Tiwari. ?However, once a particular serial becomes a hit, the actor, especially the lead, wants more money to do it. So, we are just being cautious and want the person to sign beforehand so that even if the serial becomes a hit, he/she cannot leave or demand extra money. The clause further specifies that the actor can leave under ?special circumstances? and if it is genuine, the producer will let go of him/her anyhow. Mutual understanding is of importance here.?

The clause implies that it is up to the producer to give a raise to whosoever is the face of the show.

The three-year contract clause further states that all engagements of actors will be recorded in writing and it will be mandatory for producers to give a copy of the contract/agreement to such actors before commencement of the shoot or not later than 15 days after commencement of the shoot. In the event the artiste is not given a copy of the contract after expiry of the 15 days deadline, the terms and conditions will not be applicable to him/her till such time the signed agreement is handed over to him/her.

Apparently, 10-15 actors and five to seven producers collectively formulated the MoU, after which, it was signed by hundreds of artistes and 40-50 producers before being sent for a final okay. A producer who was part of this core team on condition of anonymity went on to say, ?Four or five actors are now saying in the newspapers that the three-year contract clause is not justified. I don?t think this is fair. It is an insult to CINTAA and the producers? body.?

Another producer on condition of anonymity defended the clause saying, ?This is the first time in 20 years that some kind of documentation (read: MoU) has been done by CINTAA and the producers? body together. Shouldn?t we be welcoming it rather than talking about pros and cons.?

A third producer who also did not wish to be named said, ?People are only talking about the three years, but they should know what the details are. Just don?t go by the headlines. People are reacting even without reading it. I can guarantee that most of the actors haven?t even read the clause. No one will benefit from this, but one will surely suffer losses if it isn?t implemented.?

Sudhir Sharma of Sunshine Productions said, ?I am not saying all producers are the same. This MoU puts a lot of  pressure on producers too. There are regulations on producers who do not pay on time or pay conveyance or stick to their contracts. So, it applies to producers as much as it does to actors. It is absolutely balanced and fair.?

A fourth producer on condition of anonymity said the MoU would make actors think twice before acting pricey. ?It is absolutely justified. An artist signs a contract with a show and after eight to 10 months once the show becomes popular, starts demanding extra money or threatens to leave it. Today, the economy is so tough that by the time a producer breaks even, it is already six months,? he said. ?The artist starts behaving badly, coming late to the sets, disturbing the schedule, taking other assignments or generally making life hell for the producer. The three-year contract is for such artistes while disciplined artistes do not have anything to worry anyway.? 

Apart from the three year clause, another clause of the MoU, which deals with actors who are engaged up to only five days per month and whose per day remuneration is only up to Rs 5,000, has been the subject of much debate. The clause states that such actors will be paid within five days of their last day of shooting. Morever, the production house will fix their per-day remuneration after negotiations with them, and Rs 300 will be paid in cash over and above the agreed per day remuneration after completion of the day?s shoot. In the event the actor is part of a mythological/historical/weekend show, the payment will be made within 21 days of his/her day of shooting.

Lead actors get all the money and fame. Actors are paid purely on the basis of their popularity. It is learnt that a newcomer gets anywhere between five to 10 thousand rupees per day while an extremely popular actor may get paid up to 50-60 thousand rupees a day.

?Think of the people who get less than Rs 5,000 per day. Out of the 5,000 to 10,000 actors today, there are only about a hundred who get paid above Rs 10,000-15,000 per day. The remaining get paid Rs 3,000-5,000. I am talking about a large chunk of actors here, not the stars,? said a fifth producer, who was also part of the core team that formulated the MoU. ?A large number of actors would get paid after three months. Even if they had worked for only two days in the month for Rs 8,000, they would have to visit the office premises twice ? once for billing and the second time, for payment. With this clause, 70 per cent of the community is going to get their payments within a week. It?s a beautiful system. Look at the bigger chunk.?

A majority of producers feel that the MoU will help actors who are getting paid less so that they don?t have to wait for two to three weeks just for their payment to be released.  The MoU is a reflection of the fact that CINTAA is working for 95 per cent actors who work day and night and not just for the cr?me de la cr?me.

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