Night curfews, weekend lockdown lead to shooting crisis in Bollywood

The three big ‘C’s have come back to haunt Bollywood, which is Covid-19, cancellations and costing crisis. And it is having a back-breaking impact on the industry.

Now, with several cities, including Mumbai, Delhi and Noida, announcing night curfews, and Maharashtra government opting for weekend lockdown situation, things have become not just tricky, but “depressing” for the makers, who are just spending their days waiting for a phone call from their producers to give them a green signal to shoot the project.

In fact, the ongoing country-wide surge in cases has had a ripple effect on the shooting schedules of films, which are getting suspended as a preventive measure, be it of Fukrey 3 in Delhi, Inspector Avinash in Rishikesh and Bhool Bhulaiyaa in Mumbai.

“It is a very bad condition. Bas wait and watch kar rahe hain, and bas bethe hue hain ke kya karna hai aur kuch nazar bhi nahi aa raha hai. Sab hold pe hai. It is very depressing,” shares Anees Bazmee, whose Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 first got halted when actor Kartik Aaryan tested Covid positive.

The expected reshuffling of Bollywood releases is also making things difficult. “Hum picture khatam karke karenge bhi kya, release kahan karenge,” questions Bazmee.

“I am just waiting for my producer to give a go ahead, when he says I will start the shooting with all the guidelines and precautions,” he adds.

While Ram Setu got suspended after actor Akshay Kumar tested positive, Bachchan Pandey shoot is also on hold. Actors Pankaj Tripathi, Ali Fazal, and Richa Chadha were supposed to come to Delhi to shoot for Fukrey 3, but it has also been postponed.

The team of filmmaker Imtiaz Ali’s production Maazi, starring Gajraj Rao, is also coming back from Ujjain without completing the shoot, while the Rishikesh schedule of Inspector Avinash also got pushed multiple times.

“After two delays, the shoot for Inspector Avinash got postponed again this week. At least, 15-20 people in the unit have been tested positive for Covid. My other shoots for two web shows in Mumbai also got pushed because people in the team tested positive for the virus,” actor Soundarya Sharma reveals.

According to Shibasish Sarkar, CEO, Reliance Entertainment, the return of the virus crisis has been demoralising for the producers.

In fact, on the shooting floor, the restrictions have become more stringent, from reducing the number of people on the set to working hours to extra safety precautions, which have a ripple effect on all, and building up the overall expenditure along with health care cost.

“Now, it is also virtually impossible to go for outdoor shoots because of semi curfew and semi lockdown situation in most of the cities. And one can’t make a whole film on a set,” Sarkar shares, adding that while cost is going up, “the quality can have an impact”.

To this, trade expert Joginder Tuteja adds, “Scare factor is also playing a big role in the shoots which are getting disrupted, along with logistics”.

But the show must go on

Not all shoots are coming to a grinding halt, some are gearing up to tread the path with caution. In Delhi, Zoya Akhtar is continuing to shoot for the second season of Made in Heaven with Arjun Mathur and Sobhita Dhulipala, web series Hush Hush is also being shot in Delhi, director Prakash Jha is in Bhopal for shoot, and Shah Rukh Khan’s Pathan is also underway in Mumbai.

“The government has not put a stop over shoot provided the production companies follow all the protocols and SOPs. A lot of stringent measures are happening, with life taking more importance and the government having a strict control over that,” shares Girish Johar, film producer and trade business analyst, something which trade expert Taran Adarsh also agrees to.

Then, there is also director Rohit Shetty who is nearing completion of Circus, Vikramaditya Motwane has just started working on his series Stardust, Taapsee Pannu is shooting in Mumbai, Vikas Bahl’s Goodbye is also filming and so is Ribhu Dasgupta in Istanbul for his action thriller, starring Parineeti Chopra and Hardy Sandhu.

“While Istanbul doesn’t have many restrictions, we are finding lots of Covid cases among the crew members who are going to the foreign location, and the last minute changes are tricky. And then travel is also quite a challenge now with the protocols changing almost every day,” reveals Sarkar.

Roadblock for small, medium films

While the big budget films can endure the wait, as well as the uncertainties, the resurgence of the virus crisis have spelt trouble for small or medium budget films. They are the ones who are clueless about the way forward.

“With the second wave getting aggressive, there will be no new releases till the time things come to some level of normalcy. Due to which, the films which started going on floors from October and November onwards last year, the producers are back to a clueless situation because now again 2020 releases are pending. Now, they don’t know how to release and when to release,” Sarkar opines.

Tuteja, continues, “The big budget movies might get pushed for a few days, but they won’t be put on back burner, while the new projects might just hit the pause button. If not completed in time, there might be an issue in securing date and time from the big stars, that is why they will continues. The small medium films are under threat, and will have to just wait”.

Lessons from the past

Last year, the pandemic-induced lockdown was a big blow to the business game of Bollywood, with losses running in thousands of crores. But that left behind lessons on how to manage the situation in the present time, and that is what they should bank upon.

“In 2020, shoots got impacted for a long time, and everything was defined from scratch. But now, we have our SOPs in place. Once this current wave, which I hope and believe is in its peak, subsides, things will be better, and we will be back on track sooner,” notes Tuteja with gleam of hope in his voice.

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