As business and establishments begin to inch back to what was once defined as routine, the way films would be shot in the post-COVID-19 world could well end up changing more than what meets the eye. As work commences in the industry that had come to a standstill over the past few months, the Producers Guild of India has issued a safety protocol for filming film and television serials. While a date to allow productions to commence is still to be finalised, the new guidelines included regular hand-washing, the use of three-ply masks and social distancing as well as training and daily drills to ensure precautions “become a habit.” The Guild has also mandated the presence of “Anti-COVID Boys” on the set to ensure that all guidelines are being followed.
In addition to to way film would be shot now, at least for the foreseeable future, the impact of the new guidelines can be felt on even the thematic content of the films. Amongst the first few films that would commence shooting included Sanjay Gupta’s Mumbai Saga and Yash Raj Films’ (YRF) Shamshera that features John Abraham and Emraan Hashmi and Ranbir Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt respectively. Both films are rooted within the confines of their genre, which, ideally speaking, are also location dependent. A few months ago it would have been impossible to imagine that a a crime thriller (Mumbai Saga) or a dacoit-drama (Shamshera) could be shot anywhere but actual locations as that add to the grittiness of the narrative. However, the industry is abuzz with who Aditya Chopra, the head of YRF Yash Raj Films’ Shamshera is finalising details to film the remainder of the film on a soundstage inside Mumbai’s YRF studios.
Directed by Karan Malhotra, Shamshera is set in the 1800s and follows the antics of a dacoit tribe that fights for their rights and independence against the British. Chopra’s new instructions include shooting with a minimal crew. On the other hand, Gupta’s crime thriller is reportedly set in the 1980s and 1990s and explores the story of the times when the face of the city changed with the shutting down of mills and arrival of high rise buildings. Besides Abraham and Hashmi, the film also features Suniel Shetty, Jackie Shroff, Prateik Babbar, Gulshan Grover, and Pankaj Tripathi. Gupta hopes to commence shooting sometime in June in Hyderabad’s Ramoji Film City where it would be possible to control factors to comply with the guidelines.
In addition to the rescheduling adding to the cost of the production, some factors in the guidelines, too, would impact the budget. Stakeholders are trying to figure out the modalities surrounding medical insurance in case someone falls sick during the shooting. The guidelines have also included colour-coding crewmembers to avoid overcrowding but the challenges for the television industry are completely different. In the context of game, talk and reality shows, the audience in the studio would have to reduced now and the audiences, too, would have to maintain social distancing.
Beyond the suggestions to a strict no to hugs and kissing scenes, and the use of masks and gloves, using one’s own make-up. etc. The impact of Coronavirus on the global film industry has been immense and according to trade papers, the estimated loss suffered by India’s box office could be around $130M. The crisis is far from over and few of the Producers Guild of India’s guidelines are further going to add to the financial burden of the industry. The suggestion that production units should avoid crew members above the age of 60 years for three months from the date of shooting, as and when it starts. In other words, it means that actors such as Amitabh Bachchan would be able to start working on under production films that include Brahmāstra: Part One of Three and Chere. Most of the work on Jhund that is directed by Nagraj Manjule is over but the long in the making Brahmāstra might get further delayed. Additionally, there are a few actors such as Shakti Kapoor who aren’t ready to venture out for work. In an interview, the veteran actor said that while work was important, it couldn’t come at the cost of life. Kapoor believed that it would be chaotic if people started shooting now and he wouldn’t allow his daughter, Shraddha to resume work yet.