Ekta Kapoor leads TV frat to make inspiring COVID-19 film

Producers, actors, directors and editors come together for a relevant cause

MUMBAI: You have to hand it to creative czarina Ekta Kapor. If she does something, she does it in style. Like her latest effort at assuaging the ennui that some might be going through thanks to being boxed in their homes courtesy the long-drawn lockdown on account of COVID-19. She has got together more than a score of actors, a bunch of leading TV producers from the Indian Film & TV Producers Council, and put out a short film labelled Quarantine which not only educates, engages, but also entertains about how we can deal with the pandemic.

It was sometime around the end of the first week of April that she mentioned on the IFTPC WhatsApp group that the TV industry should make a film that would be TV-centric  and that she had a concept which could be fleshed out.  The Amitabh Bachchan Covid2019 short  film  Family with several leading actors had just been released and the view was  that the TV frat should also be doing something to keep viewers entertained and positive.

She sought volunteers from the group who would work with her to make it a reality. Almost immediately, Binaifer Kohkli, Fazila Allana (Sol India Banijay), Anil Wanvari (The Indian Telly Awards – and the group), Abhishek Rege (Endemol Shine India), JD Majethia (Hats Off Productions), Gul Khan agreed and came on  board as executive producers. (Tanushree Dasgupta came in a couple of days later as executive producer).  Dheeraj Sarna – a producer in his own right –was roped in to write the script for the short but entertaining film, with dialogues being penned by him and Anukalp Goswami.  Prolific TV music director Aashish Rego hopped on board to do the background music for the film.

Full House Media MD Sonali Jaffar was assigned with the creative responsibility, while Guroudev Bhalla was given the task of directing the video, disclosed  actor and producer JD Majethia.

Another Whatsapp group was formed with those who had volunteered.  “We connected on a Zoom call where the ideas were discussed,” he says. “After brainstorming and discussing with fellow producers a collective call was taken on how this video should be light hearted and yet conveying the important message of staying home. The basic premise was that the actors would simulate as if they were in the Big Boss house and not forcibly locked down in their homes and the story would take off from there.”

He adds, “After getting the final script the next stage was the casting.  Few were mentioned in the script and few names of actors were discussed who could participate in the video. Some were available and some were not but most of them did their best to make it happen.  It was the collective effort made by the producers, actors, editor and director to shoot this video. Because technically speaking it was not easy to shoot this video on your phone. Guroudev Bhalla did a fantastic job of putting this together. He and along with other executive producers constantly coordinated with actors for every frame of the video. He coordinated with them regarding props or lighting, how their lines should be, who should say what. He coordinated with the editor Vikas Sharma.”

Binaifer Kohli was one of the executive producers. She mentioned that Ekta Kapoor approached Sonali Jaffar to look at the creative aspect of the film. Kohli assisted Guroudev Bhalla in the direction. Kohli’s primary job was to ensure proper coordination between director, actor and the editor. According to Kohli, the actors did a phenomenal job of pulling this off. As it was not that easy to shoot just with their phone. Ensuring the proper angle and lighting. The entire shoot was done in five days as each actor was allocated different lines.

She echoes, “Some of the actors shot the video by themselves on their phone, others took help of the family members. It had moving shots where eye level had to be maintained. Lighting was a very important aspect. Whenever the changes were required actors reshot the video there and then. They sought help from the editor on uploading it. We also changed the script according to the person.”

Ekta Kapoor who spearheaded “Quarantine” says, “This video is an initiative of the television producers association of our country and we got all the top television actors to participate in this video, which was conceptualized over numerous conference calls! It is an effort from all of us in encouraging people to stay home. We hope this reaches far and wide.”

The entire concept of making this video was to keep it casual, entertaining yet focusing on the importance of staying at home. Says SOL India-Banijay Group founder & MD Fazila AllanA: “In these unprecedented times it’s just nice if one can bring a smile to people’s faces and this was a small endeavour by the TV fraternity to do just that.”

Full House Media MD Sonali Jaffar instructed the actors about their dialogues and in which manner they have to shoot. She adds, “Shooting at home was quite challenging also as a lot of prop exchanges were going on with the broom. Everyone was instructed to use a plain background as it would be difficult to match lightings. Because some were standing in the balcony some were having other backgrounds so we had to tell them to keep the same background. The other option was to use black and white background but it would have been difficult.”

“The important thing was whenever we were shooting we shared the clips with the director there and then so that the changes could be made before editing the video. I thank all actors and producers for coming together and creating this beautiful video,” she further added.

Adds Wanvari: “What is amazing how all of us worked as a team without shying away from whatever we  were asked to do. Even the actors immediately caught on to the idea that was shared with them by the creative director and Guroudev Bhalla. And they were also more than willing to do their bits to help Indians at home. They have all done a fantastic job, the results are for you to see.”

According to Majethia two versions of the short film have been created, one featuring sign language for the hearing and speech impaired and one without it. He adds, “I think this is the beauty of this video. The idea I personally loved the most.”

The video is being promoted across all social media platforms Majethia also mentions that the producers are in talks with television broadcasters to play it on national television.

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