Distressed studios ready to give concessions to producers

Agree to give a concession of 10-15 per cent in a contract

MUMBAI: Huge financial losses, unbearable maintenance costs, the fear of impending rain ruining the sets... Studio owners in the country have been living with all these woes and challenges after the lockdown was imposed to curb the spread of Covid2019. 

Ever since the lockdown, studio owners, bereft of any revenue during the last two months, have been bearing the operation costs such as for maintenance, workers’ salary, loan interest, etc.

Says Future Studio promoter Archana Shourie, “If Rs 100 was the revenue we earn in a month, which is zero now due to the crisis, the expenses of Rs 40 continue to exist as we have been paying all our workers 100 per cent salary from the company’s account, which will take us six months to come to normal.”

Shows such as Guddan – Tumse Na Ho Payega, Dil Ye Ziddi Hai, and many other projects of Balaji Telefilms are shot at Future Studio. Shourie says, “Once the shooting starts, I don’t think there would be any issues going forward. We are waiting to see how the government will help us restart.”

The financial crisis in the television and ad industry is so huge it has almost created a panic-like situation, says Shourie. “I don’t believe lockdown is really going to be a solution to stop the spread of Covid2019, because people have gone into a major depression.”

Future Studio has taken all necessary precautions such as sanitisation of cabin, sanitizer stands across the premises. It has also arranged a doctor and nurse along with an ambulance.

Lambodar Studio owner Chandan Thakare, who has been burdened with debts, has been facing harassment from people from whom he had borrowed loans for business. Says Thakare, “Currently, we are facing huge financial losses. Rains are approaching in a couple of weeks and would need to prepare ourselves, but all of our six workers have left for their hometown and will be back after everything normalises.” 

Thakare is one of the partners of Lambodar Studio in Malvani, where Marathi shows called Ek Hoti Rajkanya and episodes of Crime Patrol's were shot, but they remain paralysed due to the current crisis. Thakare has studio sets of a police station and two chawls and one bungalow at different locations. His studio business, a joint venture with four studios and production sets, has been facing financial crisis.

He fears that rain may flood the studio and that the sets will be ruined. “We don’t have labourers to cover it with tarpaulin,” he says.

With almost zero revenues, he has been incurring an operational costs of at least Rs 7.5 lakh per month. On average, Thakare used to earn revenue of not less than Rs 17-18 lakh per month, of which profit used to be Rs 4 lakh. Plus, he had to pay the interest from the profit.

It’s speculated that around mid-June shootings are likely to resume, says Thakare. “The shooting of only daily soaps will resume at a single location, whose storyline and cast change every episode, like for example Crime Patrol.” Thakare dreams of giving a better livelihood to at least 500 employees’ families working with or under him.

Artisan Studio owner RS Garg Shree Ganesha says: “This crisis has made everyone learn something out of it. We may take time to come back to normalcy with proper hygiene and social distancing.” He has been facing a monthly revenue loss of at least Rs 10 lakh and maintenance cost of Rs 2-2.5 lakh.

Garg, who jointly owns two-three studios on the outskirts of Mumbai, has been seeking at least half of the decided payment from producers, but ready to come to a middle ground through mutual understanding. He expects industry to bounce back soon and shall have a meeting with producers soon, once everything opens up. Artisan Studio doesn’t have many labours; it has a manager, an electrician and a few security guards and has been paying fully for the last two months.

Despite the woes, some studio owners are extending whatever help they can to the needy in these times of crisis. 

While all other studio owners are worried about the top-line decline, Mother Nature Studio owner Vishal Kandhari has completely turned one of the studio properties into an NGO. He along with his 14-15 employees, who are volunteering for this noble cause, has been distributing food packets to the people living on the streets, who have been suffering most due to this lockdown.

Kandhari, like other studio owners, is facing a financial crisis but this has not stopped him from feeding at least 3000-4000 people in the Andheri-Borivali belt almost every day now. He started this initiative through an NGO called Punyakarma Foundation. His initiative has received multiple donations, including from his colleagues, and has been appreciated and supported by Bollywood celebrities such as Tiger Shroff, Imtiaz Ali, Ashish Vidyarthi, and Pallavi Joshi.

Kandhari says, “The lockdown cannot be extended for a longer period. We have to come out of this and need to have an alternative solution. We need to use our intelligence as the virus is here to stay and don’t see it fading out soon.” He expects producers to take extra precautions before resuming shooting and make proper arrangements for the crew.

Kandhari owns three studios each in Mud-island, Naigaon and Malad link road. He has 50-60 employees, of which 45 of them have returned to their hometowns. So far, all workers are being paid full, but going forward the studio has to re-think about their wages. Like Thakare, Kandhari is also worried about the rains approaching in a few weeks. He is also worried about leakage and water-clogging ruining the studios.  

Thanks to their good relations with producers, studio owners have received all the payments at least till 15 March. They may have to forgo the last two months’ rent. In order to restart the business, studio owners are ready to help their fellow industry mates, especially producers, in whichever way possible, to help them stand back on their feet once a green signal for shooting comes from the government.

Studio owners believe that it’s time to help each other and emerge stronger from this situation. Towards this goal, they are ready for renegotiation of contracts with the producers if required. They are also willing to give a concession of at least 10-15 per cent to help producers resume the stalled shooting. 

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