TV industry stood strong amid the pandemic in 2020: Small screen’s big steps in the new normal
The unprecedented Covid-19 situation in India resulted in halting shoots throughout the country. But it was the television industry, which was among the first that resumed work June-end onwards following guidelines provided by the government. From following safety measures to people testing positive on set, it hasn’t been an easy ride, but show did go on.
TV industry is united in spirit says actor-producer JD Majethia, “We’ve been instrumental in reviving many jobs, in contributing to the economy in our small way. We would keeping entertaining people amid the stress.”
Actor, CINTAA senior joint secretary & chairman, Outreach Committee, Amit Behl, shares discussions between federations of artistes, technicians and government were on since March on how to restart. “We got SOPs followed in US, UK, New Zealand, South Africa etc to understand how everyone was working. That our profession required physical proximity and senior actors,technicians are vulnerable to the virus were worrying,” he shares.
There was a loss of about 90% business between March and June as there was no earning, says writer-producer Mahesh Pandey.
“Re-runs of shows didn’t generate much revenue. After work resumed we started earning and must continue to recover finances… We’ve reduced budgets of special marriage/festival sequences. Also, now there’s added expense for doctors, covid-related insurance, sanitisation, etc,” says Pandey.
Majethia shares ad revenues that went down drastically are slowly coming back has brought relief. Commercials are back as people have started buying.
Given the scenario, actors and technicians above a certain income were requested to take a cut of 20-30%, shares Bahl. Shakti — Astitva Ke Ehsaas Ki actor Avinash Mukherjee adds, “Everyone’s trying to survive. We’ve to be there for each other. It isn’t easy as we’ve to pay our makeup artistes, driver but we’ve to manage.”
Shows went off air
Shows such as Naagin 4, Beyhadh 2, Shubharambh, Vidya, Patiala Babes, Yeh Rishtey Hain Pyaar Ke, Kasautii Zindagii Kay, Nazar 2, Bhakharwadi, Ishq Subhan Allah, Kahat Hanuman Jai Shri Ram (KHJSR) etc. ended during this phase.
“It was disheartening when Vidya came to an abrupt end…tough times ask for tough measures so we’ve to accept and move on,” says actor Meera Deosthale.
It was upsetting for actor Manish Wadhwa too who only shot for 10 days for KHJSR, before it ended. “TRPs dropped and it was difficult to continue given the budget constraint,” says Wadhwa, who’s shooting the new show Hero: Gayab Mode On.
Lights, camera& action in the new normal
To continue with fresh episodes shows, Kundali Bhagya, Qurbaan Hua, Guddan —Tumse Na Ho Paayega, Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai etc were shot from home.
“It wasn’t easy. We were checking lights, camera, taking instructions on video calls... had to do everything perfectly and send footage on time,” says Guddan actor Kanika Mann.
Challenge was shooting with limited crew and making people on set understand the severity of the virus, shares Pandey. “A corona monitor is constantly reminding everyone to follow rules. We started keeping most of our cast and crew on set. Everyone except for actors are in PPE kits always. Scripts were re-written. No marriage/festival sequences took place and romantic scenes reduced. Mandatory Covid test and 7am-7pm shoot timing maintained,” he adds.
Live audience missing
Reality shows India’s Best Dancer, The Kapil Sharma Show (TKSS), Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs, Kaun Banega Corepati (KBC) etc went minus live audience. To keep artistes, contestants motivated and audience amused showmakers introduced fun techniques.
Kapil Sharma’s show introduced life-sized human cut-outs, live video-calling with fans, jury members of Sa Re... were seen banging spoons and thalis to laud performers. “We don’t know when we’ve the audience back but discussions are on,” informs actor-comedian Kiku Sharda of TKSS.
New shows in the block
TV put up a strong fight by introducing new fictions and continuing with reality shows—Naagin 5, Anupamaa, Saath Nibhaana Saathiya 2, Gupta Brothers, Indiawali Maa, Story 9Months Ki, Tera Yaar Hoon Main, Yeshu, Hamari Wali Good News, KBC and Bigg Boss.
“It’s not easy in such times to start new shows but makers have taken up the challenge. I’m proud to be in an industry that showing courage and determination,” continues Sharad Malhotra, “Naagin 5’s success shows how much audience missed us. We’ve lost enough time and business, now we can’t afford to stop.”
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Author tweets @Shreya_MJ