Bollywood dancers hit hard by Covid-19 crisis, say ‘There’ll be no shoots the entire year, but we survive on per day income’
You see them in every film song, dancing alongside every big actor, but you don’t know them. They’ve been an indispensable part of Hindi films — the background dancers. A video featuring a few of them has gone viral. Holding placards, they’re seen requesting the fraternity to support them in these trying times. Since there are no shoots happening, and all their savings are exhausted, they’re worried about their survival.
NOT ENOUGH FINANCIAL HELP
As detailed in the video, Melvin, who hails from Bhopal, couldn’t make it back to his home. He has worked on film songs such as First Class (Kalank) and all songs in Race 3. He tells us, “We thought the lockdown would be just for a month, but it got extended. We work on per day income basis. The pay doesn’t come on time, sometimes it takes three months. But the money for dancing comes faster than acting, therefore it’s the best way to get expenses sorted. Even though the government has issued order that outsiders don’t need to pay rent during quarantine, nobody is listening. We’ve got to pay rent, and for groceries as well. It’s getting worse.”
Another dancer, Sachin Kashyap details how help has been scarce till now and only Salman Khan has supported them so far. “Most of our dancers aren’t qualified, some are even tenth drop-outs, what else will they do? We have an association — Cine Dancers Association (CDA) — they helped, but they also don’t have enough funds to support 1600 people. We’ve been told shoots won’t start for us at least this entire year. What about dancers who’ve to support entire families?” asks Kashyap, adding that “Salman deposited Rs 3,500 twice in the accounts of a thousand people.”
He further reveals that he had started work on a Saif Ali Khan-starrer film, but “we were told to go back on the day of the shoot as Khan refused to work with so many people around in the wake of Covid-19 scare. Until then, the lockdown had not been announced”.
The brand ambassador of CDA, choreographer Saroj Khan reveals that she, too, is facing the same problems as the dancers. “This is the film industry, it’s not a mill or office that continues to give permanent work. Dancers come when required, you can’t blame the industry for it. Everybody is going through the same thing, even me,” she says.
Revealing that she herself is a per day worker, Khan shares that she gets her choreography work done in instalments. “You don’t get lump sum, even I’ve not saved up. I understand their trouble, because I’m going through it. You also can’t blame the association, they’ve done what they can,” she adds.
HIGH MAINTENANCE LIFESTYLE
Remo D’Souza is among the few choreographers who’ve decided to pitch in and help these dancers. And the reasons he says is because he himself has been a dancer like them before, so he can relate to their plight.
“Situation is as bad as the people are walking to their villages, they’re daily workers. It’s exactly the same for these dancers. Their lifestyle is different. They’ve to look good, maintain a lifestyle to be able to stand next to actors,” says D’Souza.
Rahul Shetty, who choreographed all the songs in Street Dancer 3D, explains that these dancers, after a point, also stop getting work. “We choreographers are still at a better place because we earn that much. A couple of months back, we had saved up for senior dancers, who get few shoots, and with Rs 2000-3000 pay they get, they live on the entire month,” says Shetty, adding that for young dancers, they’re “planning a workshop, so we can collect whatever amount we can”.
We’re further informed by Melvin that a coordinator by the name of Raj is the one who takes care of the payments and shoots for these dancers, and is the source of work for all professional card holders. In fact, he was the one who came up with the idea to make the video seeking help.
FUTURE LOOKS UNCERTAIN
D’Souza further says that since there could be many restrictions on set, like lesser people, it eventually would mean less jobs for these dancers, too. “They dance in a group, and that’s not going to be possible. Let’s see, we’re trying to do our best. Producers and everyone have to come together,” he says.