IFTPC proposes Bio-Bubble plan before Maharashtra Govt

Due to lockdown, TV producers consider shifting productions outside Maharashtra.

MUMBAI: Film and TV land juddered to a halt on Wednesday after the Maharashtra government imposed a ban on filming for a period of two weeks owing to the skyrocketing cases of Covid2019 in the state.

The new order is part of the Break The Chain guidelines, that states all shoots of films, television and advertisement will be put on hold from 14 April to 1 May. Until this order, production had been taking place with restrictions like avoiding filming scenes with large crowds or background dancers and no shoots during the weekend lockdown.

As the television and film industry gears up to brace the impact of the two-week-long restrictions in Maharashtra, several entertainment bodies and broadcasters met on Wednesday and decided to appeal to state chief minister Uddhav Thackeray to allow certain production-related activity by following Covid2019 safety protocols.

Television producer and Indian Films & TV Producers Council (IFTPC) chairman TV wing & web JD Majethia has said that while the entire fraternity supports the government in its fight to curb the spread of Covid2019, they have decided to approach Thackeray to allow shoots to go on with stricter measures.

“We are writing to the CM for a few exemptions during the next two weeks. People look forward to entertainment and fresh content while being confined to their homes during such a trying time,” said Majethia.

He also mentioned that the production houses who have created a bank of upcoming episodes will sustain and those who do not have fresh episodes in the pipeline will have to air repeat telecasts.

“Some film and television producers are also mulling over plans to shift productions to locations outside Maharashtra like Goa or nearby places to commence the shooting,” said Swastik Productions MD Rahul Kumar Tewary, who is currently shooting in Gujarat. “They are also changing the track of the shows to current times. The whole industry is facing a very challenging time despite following all the Covid2019 protocols the situation is uncontrollable and unpredictable. Broadcasters are also planning whether they want to air original content or repeat telecasts.”

The new restrictions could impact the shooting of around 90 TV shows, 50 Hindi movies, and 40 Marathi films. Apart from these, the production of a large number of web series will also be impacted.

While echoing the sentiment, Majethia mentioned that rather than changing locations, it would be easier for a fiction show to alter its storyline. However, it can be extremely difficult for a non-fiction property to create a whole new infrastructure, he highlighted. “Moving the entire cast and crew to a new location is a possibility but what will we do if the situation gets worse over there as well? A lot of shootings were happening in Madhya Pradesh but the government soon announced a lockdown, due to which ongoing shootings were immediately halted. These kinds of situations can happen anytime,” the producer said.  

With the double-edged sword of rising caseloads and production shutdown at any time hovering over their heads, representatives of several producers’ bodies have decided to propose creation of bio-bubbles to the state government.

“This week, along with other stakeholders of the industry, we will present our plan on bio-bubble to the government. Through this move we are trying to build a confidence among government officials that if shooting gets resumed, we have a protected environment where we can shoot,” Majethia explained. 

He also expressed fears that if the lockdown continues and fresh content dries up, it could be difficult to retain existing viewers, who may migrate to online streaming platforms for good.

Elara Capital research analyst Karan Taurani said TV shows will be most impacted by the shutdown, specifically Marathi and Hindi fiction and non-fiction shows.

Meanwhile, broadcasters and producers are working in tandem to tackle the situation. There is no penalty on late delivery of content and discussions are underway on extending the budget in case of outdoor shoots.

“TV broadcasters generally have a buffer of 10-15 days before a fresh episode is shown, hence the impact will be minimal if this restriction stays for 15 days, however in case of any extension, it will have a negative impact for broadcasters," pronounced Balaji Telefilms CEO Karan Taurani.

Bollywood is also feeling the heat. Films like Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Pathan, Salman Khan-led Tiger 3 and Amitabh Bachchan’s Goodbye that were filming under these restrictions are now in limbo. Moreover, the industry is bearing losses as spot boys and other daily wagers have returned to their hometown due to no work.

“We support lockdown, but there has to be a way for us. The government talks about others but not daily wagers in our industry,” said the president of the All Indian Cine Workers Association.

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