Production schedules of films and TV shows went haywire yesterday, after thousands of technicians refused to report to work and went on a flash strike.
The workers were protesting the measly wages they were paid and long working hours they were made to endure by producers.
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Shooting pain: Hundreds of workers gathered at Film City in Goregaon, where they shouted slogans against producers for exploiting them. Pic/Ronak Savla
The spark that triggered the protest was an alleged assault on a technician by members of Ekta Kapoor’s production team on Monday.
When the light man shut off the lights after the regulatory 12-hour shift, a production member allegedly beat him up. Technicians then called in committee members of the Film Studios Setting and Allied Mazdoor Union.
The three committee members of the union, who had gone to discuss their members’ wages and working hours, were allegedly assaulted by people from the Balaji production team and security guards
The three members — Naveen Singh, Dharmendra Rawat and Deepak Shrivastav — arrived at the Killick Nixon studio in Chandivli, Powai to discuss the situation and also the working hours and wages.
The problem is not of a singular incident; workers are unhappy with their remuneration in general. Some workers claimed that they are not paid on time, while others said that they were made to do overtime. “We are like daily wage workers and it has become increasingly difficult to take care of basic expenses with such a low pay. According to the members, they are paid anywhere between Rs 650 to Rs 800 per day, with around Rs 82 for conveyance and nearly Rs 100 for breakfast and lunch daily. Overtime is variable — some producers pay, while others don’t.
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Gangeshwar Srivastav, the association’s general secretary, told mid-day, “Members are overworked, as producers force them to work beyond their 12-hour shift. On Monday night, one of our co-members told the production manager about the same and shut the lights after the said shift was over. When the manager assaulted our member, he called us up. We then went to talk to the Balaji team about the increased working hours and low pay. The production team had its security men come in and beat us up. They also damaged our cars.”
Making them pay: The workers’ union is demanding better pay, and want producers to stick to the 12-hour shifts or pay them overtime. They have given a deadline of May 20 for producers to arrive at a solution.
The union, which includes production boys, light men, carpenters, assistants etc, issued a non-cooperation notice to producers following the incident. Of the three members, Singh suffered injuries on his head and face, while Rawat and Shrivastav sustained minor injuries. A complaint was lodged at the Powai police station on Tuesday morning.
Police sub-inspector Shrikant Kant, investigating officer from Powai police station, confirming the same, said, “Four people from the production team were arrested on Tuesday at 6 am. They were booked under sections 324 (Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 427 (mischief causing damage) and 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal code. Within hours, they were later released on bail.”
Not only did the association call for a strike, but it also visited different studios across Mumbai to ensure that film and TV shoots didn’t take place. On Tuesday, around 2,000 workers gathered at Film City in Goregaon, where they shouted slogans against producers for exploiting them.
No lights, no camera, no action: Mehboob Studios in Bandra wears a deserted look, as work came to a standstill due to the flash protest. Pic/Satyajit Desai
Around 50 shoot schedules had been lined up in Film City and nearly 70 per cent of them were affected due to the strike. An industry source reported, “J D Majethia, who heads the Indian Film and Television Producers Council tried requesting the protesting workers, but to no avail.”
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Gangeshwar said director-producer Mahesh Bhatt was promoting his film Citylights at Mehboob Studios in Bandra. But, on hearing of the incident, he cancelled the event. Work on the sets of Sajid Nadiadwala’s film, Kick, was stopped.
Bhatt wholeheartedly supported the allied workers’ body. “Our house is in disorder. Something concrete needs to be done so as to fix these issues before things get out of hand,” he stated.
While the strike was called off in the afternoon and workers shall return to work from today, the union has given producers till May 20 to answer their grievances and arrive at an acceptable solution. Else, the industry shall be brought to a grinding halt as these vital technicians go on indefinite strike.
Lathi charge at Film City
The police had to be brought in after the protesting workers landed up at the sets of Comedy Nights With Kapil, the popular show of comedian Kapil Sharma, and allegedly attacked people present there. Film City Joint MD Mangesh alleged that the workers started pelted stones, which is when the cops were called. “How can they land up at a government property and stop work? We won’t allow that,” he said.
Controlling the chaos: Police took union leader Sanjay Shrivastav and other protesting workers into custody. The workers, who came to Film City to stop filming, allegedly pelted stones at the cops.
Police had to lathi charge the workers to control the situation. Senior Inspector Uttam More of Aarey sub police station said, “Around 12.15 pm, a mob of 40-50 people protested on the sets of Kapil Sharma’s comedy show. They are on strike and were not allowing anyone to work. The union workers attacked the police with stones and to control the situation, we had to lathi charge on them. They were later taken into custody. In this incident, three police constables were injured and others sustained minor injuries.”
A case has been registered against union leader Sanjay Shrivastav and workers for interrupting police work and misbehaving with police officers, added More.
When contacted about the incident, Ekta Kapoor, joint MD of Balaji Telefilms, replied, “Please don’t print rubbish.”
J D Majethia of Indian Film and Television Producers Council felt that work and business in the industry had grown, so had the challenges. "TV producers have worked hard to organise the industry in the last five years. We also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Federation of Western India Cine Employees, the mother body of all craft. It’s clearly mentioned in it that there will be no stoppage of work by any craft, and disputes and problems will be discussed at regular meetings,” he said.
He continued that this clause was being violated for quite a long time now, and that this was simply unacceptable. “Today’s strike came as a huge shock to the industry. There was a loss of creative manpower, huge losses of money as well as time for many who wanted to work. This includes workers in whose name the protest was called,” he added.
Producer-director Mahesh Bhatt cancelled his promotional event at Mehboob Studios after hearing of the event. He advocates that a solution be arrived at for the problem, before it gets out of hand. File pic
Strike affect films and TV shows
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Total losses suffered by producers of films and TV shows due to the strike yesterday, as per industry sources
No of members in the Film Studios Setting and Allied Mazdoor Union
Minimum daily rent a producer pays to engage a studio for a shoot at Film City