Film workers' union protests on sets of Akshay Kumar's upcoming film 'Rustom'; disrupts set designing for two hours following payment to 'wrong' workers' body; it is the second such incident this month
Close on the heels of the shoot of Vishal Bhardwaj's 'Rangoon' being disrupted over a case of mistaken identity, members of the Film Studio Setting and Allied Mazdoor Union struck again yesterday — this time, they held up the set designing work of Akshay Kumar-starrer 'Rustom' at RK Studio, Chembur.
Akshay Kumar in a still from Rustom, which is set in the 50s
Led by Gangeshwar Shrivastav, the workers alleged that the film's producers had wrongly made a payment of Rs 15 lakh to their namesake affiliated to the Federation of Western Indian Cine Employees (FWICE). As a result, the art designing came to a standstill for a couple of hours. Shrivastav confirms the news, saying, "After the production team assured us that all payment will henceforth be made to us, the work was resumed."
The Shrivastav-headed Mazdoor Union had been dissolved by the FWICE in December 2014 for alleged criminal behaviour. They have since been operating as an independent body. Meanwhile, the FWICE set up a workers' union of the same name with Prem Singh as its chairman.
'Rustom' producers Neeraj Pandey and Shital Bhatia remained unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts while Prem Singh said he was "unaware" of the matter.
Choreographer-director Remo D'Souza hopes that the producers discuss the confusion over the two unions and reach a solution: "This is a big issue and has been happening for quite some time. Producers should show more unity to resolve the issue or else it will get uglier." Filmmaker Rohan Sippy agrees. "Producers always want the workers to be paid, but not through the wrong channel. The authorities should discuss this and ensure that no illegal activity takes place. Such protests also lead to loss of money, time and energy," he says.
Workers protesting on the film's sets on Friday morning
Mukesh Bhatt, president, The Film and Television Producers Guild of India, says, "We have an understanding with the federation, nobody else. Let them and the federation sort it out and tell us about the way forward." Producer Ramesh Taurani believes the actions of Shrivastav's union are illegal: "We will call the police if needed (in case of chaos on his films' sets). We have to give payment to the federation since we recognise the federation. However, talks are on to resolve the matter between both the unions."
FWICE general secretary Dilip Pithwa alleges that BJP MLA Ram Kadam is supporting Shrivastav. "He calls up producers and asks them to make payments to Shrivastav. How can the government support him? We are planning to meet government officials to discuss and resolve the matter."