Tiding over a storm

The arrest of five spot boys from the sets of the television serial Tarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashmah (Sab TV) was only the tip of the iceberg. It exposed the crisis faced by the Indian Television industry for the past two months.The spot boys put up a fight to demand their wages from the producer and hence were locked up at Samta Nagar Police station. Prem Singh Thakur, Senior Vice Chairman of Mazdoor Union said, “Yes five members were arrested for demanding their dues. This is just one of the many examples of producers mistreating daily wagers.” He added that the 35 thousand workers have seen losses worth Rs 300 crore from Jan 2007 till date.

Laxmi Prasad Baniya, a spot boy said, “We are supposed to be paid Rs 520 for an eight hour shift for television and Rs 605 for films per day and an additional Rs 50 for conveyance. But we aren’t paid the entire amount. Producers keep saying ‘come tomorrow’ or ‘we will pay you later’. During shoots we also have to take all the shooting equipment to the location and bring it back. At times the schedule ends so late that we miss the last bus or train and taxis are not an affordable option. Hence sometimes we sleep at bus stops or at shooting locations. During lunch/ dinner or snack breaks we serve actors and other seniors so we do not even get to eat on time.” Such is their condition.

However the producer of the serial Asit Kumaar has a completely different take on the issue. He said, “They are new workers. They demanded Rs 5 lakhs at 11.30 in the night. Women and children were present on the sets. I was just saving my other team members.”

All workers of Cinema and Television went on a non co-operation with producers from Oct 1-3 this year. The issue was momentarily solved as the producers signed a memorandum and agreed to their demands. But it wasn’t put into affect until the 20th. Then on 21st October the workers stalled 22 shoots. This irked the producers and they decided to work for only 2 hours worth of content per broadcaster per day. “We are working yes, but not to our full capacity. All TV producers have informed the broadcasters that only two hours worth of content per broadcaster will be shot every day. The broadcasters can use the time period to shoot any serial,” said Vice President of the Producers’ Guild (a major producers’ association), Dheeraj Kumar.

The general Hindi entertainment channels are using smart editing techniques, prolonged flashbacks or running re-telecasts of their shows to cover the drought. Keertan Adyanthaya, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Star Television, said, “Giving our channel rivalry a skip, all seven Hindi general entertainment channels have given an ultimatum to all TV producers. They have to resolve the entire issue by 9th Nov else the channels will take drastic action. We may even discontinue their serials. We can’t afford hiked prices as we pay the production houses a handsome amount. We are broadcasters not organisers or producers. Our viewers and advertisers feel cheated.”

“I know about their ultimatum and the only solution is a three party (producer, workers and broadcasters) meeting to discuss the price hike,” said Dheeraj Kumar.

Report By: By Runna Ashish Bhutda

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