Lean crew on film sets leave countless of artistes in dire straits

Updated: 12 October, 2020 07:21 IST | Mohar Basu | Mumbai

Even as big-ticket movies go on floors, make-up artistes, stuntmen, spot boys struggle to land projects as makers hand-pick skeletal crews for shoot

John Abraham's Mumbai Saga are among the films currently being shot
John Abraham's Mumbai Saga are among the films currently being shot

At a glance, the picture looks promising — with several big productions having gone on floors in the past few weeks, the wheels of the entertainment industry appear to be turning again. But delve deeper, and one may observe that a chunk of the industry workforce is reeling under severe economic strain. As the state government's guidelines recommend having a lean crew on the set, stars and producers have been compelled to cut down on their teams, leaving countless artistes — including make-up and hairstyling artistes, stuntmen, technicians and spot boys — in dire straits.

A make-up artiste who used to work closely with a leading star, who is slated to leave for a shoot in north India next week, notes that while the head of each department has emerged unscathed, the bottom of the pyramid is the worst affected. "The number of actors hired is still the same, but the crew is suffering the brunt of the SOPs [standard operating procedures]. My friends and I have been dropped from projects because more often than not, the makers will choose our bosses over us for an assignment," she says.

Salman Khan's Radhe
Salman Khan's Radhe

Naahid Shah, who is serving as a stylist on Sanjay Gupta's Mumbai Saga, points out that the current situation hasn't favoured the top rung either. "I have four assistants who are my salaried employees. So, I pay their fees from my pocket." Shah works with her assistants on a rotational basis, thus ensuring everybody is given a fair chance. "But, there are financial pressures at the top too. For instance, I was to do a web show in April, but its shoot was called off due to the lockdown. Now, the makers are ready to begin work on the show, but the OTT platform has hired only the main stylist." She hopes the situation will improve by January with more projects going on floors.

Aejaz Gulab, general secretary, Movie Stunt Artistes Association, reveals that his men are facing a similar predicament. "Earlier, fight sequences would include 15 stuntmen; now, it has come down to five. The move has particularly hit middle-aged artistes in the age group of 45 to 50 years. The action director and production heads decide who will be selected for the sequences. One can say this is the survival of the fittest, but what about the survival of others?" Even as he is grateful that the producers have resorted to pay cuts for body doubles and stuntmen, Gulab asserts that artistes should be hired on rotation. "The onus of looking out for everyone is on us. We are planning to meet the various producer associations [to settle the matter]."

Bunty Aur Babli 2 wrapped up its filming early last month
Bunty Aur Babli 2 wrapped up its filming early last month

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First Published: 12 October, 2020 07:12 IST

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