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.

Also read: Lights, camera, shutdown: When Bollywood came to a standstill...

 Shooting pain: Hundreds of workers gathered at Film City in Goregaon, where they shouted slogans against producers for exploiting them. Pic/Ronak Savla
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 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.
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.”

Interrupting work
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 stand still due to the flash protest. Pic/Satyajit Desai
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.”

Also read: Shivering lightman plummets to death in Film City

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.