There's an unnerving silence at the Yash Raj Films office in Andheri, Mumbai - it's the silence left by the largescale sacking at one of India's biggest film studios, the ultimate proof that Bollywood can't ignore the recession.
The axe fell suddenly. "It was a rude shock," says one of the affected employees, declining to be named. "I reached office, worked like any other day, and at six in the evening, received an e-mail stating that the company informs me that my tenure is over."
A total of 20 employees, including senior executives and producers, have been laid off as a cost-cutting initiative. That the company was in trouble had been rumoured for some time - sources had told HT City earlier that salaries for December 2008 had not been paid at YRF, a first in the studio's history. After this barrage of pink slips, the source confirms that the studio owes money to some outside vendors as well.
The layoff belies the image of YRF as a company that treats employees like family. But it had to happen, say industry insiders, pointing to the number of flops coming out of YRF. "Of the 10 films released by the studio in the past two years or so, only Chak De! India and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi have fared well," says trade analyst Taran Adarsh. "Recession has hit the industry and the flops put Yash Raj Films in a shaky financial situation." The first hint of serious trouble had come when studio CEO Sanjeev Kohli stepped down on January 31 this year.
There is one silver lining in this cloud of gloom: with Yash Raj on their CV, employees can look forward to other offers in the market. "Competitors are already vying to hire most of us," says the staffer. Officials from YRF refused to comment on the subject.