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Home / Bollywood / The burning question: How safe are film sets?

The burning question: How safe are film sets?

With fire breakouts becoming a recurring problem on film sets, the industry reveals not enough is being done to ensure safety

bollywood Updated: Mar 03, 2015, 11:36 IST
Jigar Shah
Jigar Shah
Hindustan Times

Last month, there was a near-major accident on the sets of Shah Rukh Khan’s new game show - Sabse Shana Kaun - after a generator caught fire. Then, there was a fire on the sets of a Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor-starrer, ABCD 2, in Filmcity Goregaon, this time due to a short circuit.

While no injuries were reported in either case, they raise one obvious question: just how safe are film sets, and the support staff, besides the actors, who work there?

Whose responsibility is it?

An executive producer, on the condition of anonymity, tells us that "it is the responsibility of the line producer and the first assistant of a particular project to ensure safety measures on the sets". However, this just seems to be an assumed responsilibility. "There are no basic guidelines laid out which can be adhered to," the executive producer adds.

But what about the studios where the films are being made? Shouldn’t they be held accountable as well? A source tells us that often, film studios where the sets are erected, usually inform production houses that they can only provide them with fire extinguishers; ambulances are generally not available on standby. "But a lot of big production houses do take the effort to ensure safety on the sets. They keep an ambulance and a water tanker on standby when a dangerous sequence is being shot," says the source.

So, what happens when a worker gets injured during a mishap on the sets? The executive producer puts things into perspective, saying, "The workers don’t have medical insurance. If they are injured on the sets, it is the responsibility of the producer to pay them. In worst cases, if they lose their lives, their family is given money, but that is a paltry compensation."

Rules not in place: Vidya Balan

Some actors agree that for the support staff, working on a film set can be perilous.

Vidya Balan says that she feels the pain of the workers. "I worry for the lightmen who work with wires which are not insulated. Sometimes, it rains; sometimes, you are doing a scene in water and I feel someone is going to get electrocuted. Abroad, technicians are covered with insurance and there are solid rules and regulations that one has to follow."

In the past

Fire breakouts on the sets are not a new occurrence. In the ’90s, actor-filmmaker Sanjay Khan’s opulent set for the TV show Tipu Sultan, which was erected in Mysore, got burnt down, leading to several deaths. Another incident came to light in 2006 when Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s set for his film, Black, caught fire. More recently, in 2013, a fire broke out on the sets of Kapil Sharma’s show Comedy Nights with Kapil. due to a short-circuit.

Kamlesh Pandey, President of the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE), says that they have been asking studios to increase the safety precautions on the sets, but no concrete steps have been taken till now. "When it comes to the health and safety of the workers, we are a country that is extremely negligent," he says.
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