Maharashtra unlock begins; TV, film shoots resume with limited working hours

TV, film shoots have been allowed only for eight hours in Mumbai.

New Delhi: After nearly two months of lockdown, Maharashtra is all set to begin easing its strict rules in stages, starting Monday. The film and television industry will also resume shooting, but work in limited hours, as regular shooting will be permitted only after Mumbai gets a grip on the second wave of Covid-19, said chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday.

As per the state government's unlock plan, the film, TV shoots are allowed in Mumbai and Thane only for eight hours (till 5 pm) and that too, in a bio-bubble. According to producers, the timings aren't feasible for the industry, as they require atleast 12 hours and requested the government for relaxation in shoot timings.

“Permissions for regular film and TV shootings in Mumbai would be given if the city's daily Covid-19 cases are brought under control,” Thackeray told the representatives of the film and TV industry during a virtual interaction on Sunday.

One of the worst-affected states, Maharashtra has begun to show a slowdown in the number of new infections over the last week. On Sunday, the total number of daily infections came down to 12,557 which is the lowest in the last three months. The last time the state recorded Covid-19 cases less than 12,000 was on 9 March.

"After the second wave of Covid-19, film and TV shootings were stopped in the state, but now the number of cases have started getting under control and the unlock process has also begun," said Thackeray giving a glimmer of hope to the entertainment industry which has been struggling to get back on its feet for almost a year.

The chief minister also sounded a note of caution and appealed to the industry to cooperate with the government in the unlock process and follow all the safety rules and take adequate precautions while shooting. 'We should ensure that we do not get knocked down by the virus,' he said.

Ever since the restrictions were announced on 14 April, television producers and broadcasters in the state have been struggling to run daily shows and bring fresh content. The Indian Film and Television Producers Council (IFTPC) has also been beseeching the Shiv Sena-led government to allow shoots to continue under strict safety protocols.

With no relief in the restrictions, producers shifted their production set up to other states to continue shooting for shows which are on air. Neighbouring Goa, Silvassa, and Daman became the hotspots for most of these TV shoots, along with Hyderabad, Surat, Rajasthan, and Delhi.

Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE), president B N Tiwari said the work will resume immediately in Mumbai and Thane, and producers who have been shooting outside the city will also return after wrapping up the schedule.

Meanwhile, the IFTPC has also begun the process of vaccinating over 10,000 workers from the media and entertainment industry, starting 4 June.

On Sunday, Maharashtra lost 233 lives to the deadly virus and crossed the grim milestone of as many as one lakh deaths due to Covid-19. The case fatality rate now stands at 1.72 per cent for the state, while it is 5.56 per cent in Mumbai.

Terming the unlock decision as a 'calculated risk', the state CM urged people to take care of themselves. "Nothing is going to be eased immediately. Some criteria and levels have been fixed and the local administration will take decisions on whether to ease restrictions and further tighten them," he said.

According to the government, the overall process of easing the restrictions will extend across five phases based on the positivity rate and occupancy of beds with medical oxygen. Restaurants, shops selling non-essential items, and public places will reopen from Monday in Mumbai, but malls, theatres, and multiplexes will continue to remain shut. Private offices can function at 50 per cent capacity till 4 pm on working days. Local trains in Mumbai will carry only essential workers, while buses in the city will be allowed to ply full capacity.

The virtual meeting on Sunday was attended by several prominent actors, anchors, and industry representatives including J D Majethia, Nitin Vaidya, Punit Goenka, Aadesh Bandekar, Prashant Damle, Bharat Jadhav, Subodh Bhave, Amol Kolhe, Amit Behl, Ajay Bhalvankar, Sangamon Shirke, Vijay Kenkre, Sharad Ponkshe, and Siddharth Roy Kapur.

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