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With Shooting Stalled in Lockdown, Supporting Actors Find it Difficult to Survive

Sohit Soni (L), Sayandeeep Sengupta (R)

Sohit Soni (L), Sayandeeep Sengupta (R)

Apart from temporarily pulling the plug on their art, for which they live, the coronavirus pandemic has also struck down on the livelihood of actors in the TV and web industry.

Sohit Soni appears in television shows like Tenali Rama and Bhabiji Ghar Par Hain and that provides for his family. He is lucky that these titles are not off-air, yet. 

Soni says that a 'temporary family visit' to Faridabad in the early days of lockdown has turned into a nightmare. No work for more than 60 days and he is running out of options to pay for his rented flat in Mumbai.


As the Covid-19 pandemic shows no signs of abating and since Mumbai, the hub of entertainment, falls under the red-zone, there are slim chances that film or TV shooting will resume anytime soon. While film bodies like Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE), Indian Film & Television Directors' Association (IFTDA) and Producers Guild of India hold meetings to formulate new guidelines, character actors like Soni continue to struggle to make ends meet. 

TV shows like Patiala Babes, Nazar 2, Isharon Isharon Mein and Beyhadh 2 have already been terminated as new episodes couldn’t be shot. And these shows were popular, leave aside those that were trying to get a foothold.


Soni says, "My life depends on it. Only if the unit goes back into production will I be able to survive. TV shows are hard to get and now when I have moved out of the beginners phase, my appetite for work has only been growing." 


"The per-day payment that I receive is very significant. My present and future depends on the work I do, which is in a total standstill," he adds.

Soni longs to see both--an audience and some payment.

The Office actor Sayandeep Sengupta would have had two web-series lined up for release during this time. The shooting had finished, but the post-production work remains.

Sengupta candidly says, "If I had 10 shoots in a month, they have cut down significantly. I consider myself blessed and had started living on a budget since day one of the lockdown was announced. But I feel for the daily wage earners of the industry who are worst affected by this crisis."

Though Sengupta shot for a stay-at-home episode of The Office, but that wasn’t easy. "The actors are on-call with the director, who is guiding them on video. Hair and make-up, camera-setting, lighting plus performance then becomes the onus of just on-person, whose job otherwise is to deliver a scene. So, it gets difficult at times. I remember, we shot a video one day and then another day we shot it from scratch."

Sengupta also stresses on an important aspect of being out-of-work, mental health, which he says is internal to this crisis. "I am not taking stress about when the shooting will resume because if I do my state of mind will get affected. I am currently eating into my savings and have deferred payment on personal loans as of now. If it comes down to it, I will not hesitate in asking for help," he says.      

Other showbiz-related workers including costume designers, camera operators, light men, caterers and makeup artists have been furloughed. It’s a possibility that by the time the situation gets back to normal, many would have switched the industry. In the process, a lot of promising careers might get derailed. Also, they would be expected to start afresh with all those years in the entertainment industry amounting to nothing. 


The coronavirus can also be a good excuse for exploitation. Since studios will try to work with skeletons crews, people desperate for work might settle for lesser wages. This eventually would force early retirements and talent drain.   


The industry, on a whole, might see new meanings, or unique ways of getting tasks done, but that will come at the cost of people like Soni.

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