Last year when shoots where halted due to the COVID-19 lockdown, producers, exhibitors and especially daily wage workers who make for 75% of the crew on sets for both Bollywood movies and serials were badly affected. And now with the second wave of the coronavirus infections happening, the state of Maharashtra, home to most of the filming sets and locations were put on a lockdown for 15 days, which can extend given the number of rising cases in the state.
But this time, even before the 15-day-lockdown in Maharashtra was announced, TV show and movie producers had a plan B, to shift base to other states if they want to continue shooting. As a result, the neighbouring state of Goa has become the hot spot for most of these shoots.
The team of Mohit Suri’s Ek Villain returns, including Arjun Kapoor and Tara Sutaria, has jetted off to Goa. Bhushan Kumar, co-producer of Ek Villain returns, said, “The sudden surge in Covid cases is definitely worrisome. We stand by the decision to not shoot in the city (Mumbai), but to meet the shoot deadlines, we’ve found the perfect location in Goa, and we’re abiding by the protocols laid down by the governments. Right now, it’s important to take precautions and maintain safety of everyone on set, too. With regards to the shoots of our other films, we will soon take a call.”
“While we support the lockdown and are standing united in helping the state and nation overcome this crisis, the show must go on. So many livelihoods are at stake. So, yes, films, web shows and serials, which can relocate their shoot out of Maharashtra are doing so to ensure that they don’t suffer financial losses, and manage to finish their shoots. It’s a practical move” said filmmaker Milap Zaveri.
Reliance Entertainment has as many as four projects in various stages of production on floors currently, but all shoots have had to be stalled. Shibasish Sarkar, Group CEO, tells us it’s not feasible always to change the location. “We’re not in a position to shift. Having said so, if there’s a producer or director who has done it, depending upon the story, it’s a good option in this situation. But the number of cases are increasing. How long it will be possible to manage, I am not sure. Jab tak ho sakta hai shoot, karna chahiye,” he opines.
Sarkar goes on to add that dismantling a set is also not possible in case an alternate location works out. “We had four-five shoots, some shows and some films, they’ve stopped in different states. We’re waiting for the next 15 days to see the situation. You can change the location, but can’t dismantle an already existing set,” he says.
Trade analyst Taran Adarsh says a lot depends on the story when it comes to shifting to a different shoot location. “If a particular place meets the requirement, and the artistes are comfortable, then there’s no harm. The location is decided by the script. The scare is everywhere, not just Mumbai or a particular region. It’s a global pandemic. So, if a setting matches, you can certainly shoot following the rules,” he says.
Several TV shows have also shifted their shoot locations to various other cities. Zee TV itself has moved around five film shoots to Goa, while other channels like Colours TV has also shifted their shoots to Goa. TV serials like Kundali Bhagya , Kumkum Bhagya , Anupamaa, Yeh Hai Chahatein have already moved their shoot locations to Goa. Pooja Banerjee, who stars in Kumkum Bhagya, says their shoot has been shifted to Goa. “I am sure the budgets are going to get bigger. We are going through this because the show must go on. The public has to stay at home, and wants their shows, and we are trying to fulfill it,” she says.
But the question that follows is how cost-effective is it for the channels to shift the whole crew to another state? And how are producers ensuring that they keep the cast and crew safe with all the travelling and shifting?
“We used to have a crew of 100 people before the lockdown. Now we are working with 50 people. The whole team that’s going to Goa has been tested for COVID before they left. And we have booked a whole resort in Goa where the cast and crew will be staying and shooting. The resort will be exclusively for us and we will make sure that no one steps out” said Ved Raj, Producer of ‘Apna Time Bhi Aayega’.
Producers have also made sure they have a backup plan if their artists test COVID positive or refuse to shift base. “There have been few artists who had issues travelling to Goa and staying there for a month. So, we had to remove them from the script. Recently our main lead Megha Ray tested COVID positive so we altered the track, we got her kidnapped. If it’s the character artist who tests positive then it’s manageable.”
Everyone is now waiting to see if the current lockdown on film and TV shoots will lift after 1 May, 2021 and also on how Goa will cope on with extra guests that may have negative impacts on the state’s covid situation.