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Small-time actors go on hunger strike

Some actors go on an indefinite hunger strike to protest against the unfair treatment meted out to them

The New Year has kickstarted with focus on small-time actors who have taken their grievances to the streets and are expressing themselves loud and clear.

Arif Shaikh
Cine artist Arif Shaikh (circled) on a hunger strike at Andheri. Pic/Satyajit Desai

Arif Shaikh, a member of the Cine and Television Artistes Association (CINTAA), has been on a hunger strike for nearly four days outside the CINTAA Tower at Andheri. The actor, who has worked in serials like Laado, 24 and Gunahon Ka Devta has been demanding a hike in conveyance and immediate payments be made to actors working for only few days in a TV serial or a film.

“The conveyance was stopped about 12 years ago and even after writing to the association demanding the resumption of the same, the general secretary, Dharmesh Tiwari, has not been fighting for our rights,’’ rues Shaikh.

According to the 35-year-old, stars like Aamir Khan and Salman Khan, who are part of popular shows like Satyamev Jayate and run NGOs respectively, should put their weight behind such issues.

Character actors like him received comparatively less work over the past few years. A fellow member (who doesn’t want to be named) recently joined Shaikh in the strike. He adds, “You remember Chaubeji of Dabanng -- his real name is Sujaan Singh -- even after playing such a famous onscreen character, he was out of work for more than a year. There are always professional uncertainties.”

Some actors at the event alleged that if any of them complained to CINTAA about non-payment faced the possibility of being suspended by the association. Brijesh Karnal, who appeared in films like Ram Leela and has done several commercials, was one of them.

“I have been suspended for complaining about issues of non-payment. Besides there is not much of work for us either. Our elected members like Rakhi Sawant who claimed to fight for the actors’ cause has not even bothered to come and see us,” Brijesh says.

Although Arif has been on hunger strike for four days, none of the committee members has visited him yet.

Actors also claim that they have to borrow money to run the kitchen and it is only because the producers don’t pay on time.

An average earning of a character actor ranges from Rs 2,500 to Rs 5,000 per day. But one member (who has acted in serials like Laptaganj and Chidiya Ghar) claims on condition of anonymity that extreme measures have to be taken. “We are so desperate at times that some of our members even agree to work for just R500.”

The members claim to have approached actors like Farida Jalal, Anupam Kher, Annu Kapoor and lyricist Javed Akhtar but have so far received no response from any of the established names.

While the actors blame Tiwari for not fighting for their rights, he has a different story to tell.

“I have been writing to producers and our committee has had several meetings with the producers bodies. The producers have said that they will not pay more than R300. They have agreed to clear the payments of actors getting a remuneration of R5,000 per day within four working days.”

Tiwari sounds upset about his members blaming him for their problems. “If they want to fight, they should go and strike outside the producers’ office. Also, what was the hurry? We are almost near to closing the deal with the producer in our next meeting on the issue on January 4,” he sums up.

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