There have been no lights, camera or action on Bollywood sets since mid-March, when the lockdown first came into force. Now though, the Hindi film industry is readying to crawl back into action as a number of films will hit the floors from next month onwards, in addition to the ones that have already got into the ‘work’ mode. But it’s interesting to note that getting back on sets would mean an extra financial burden on a film’s budget on account of the health/safety measures that the producers need to put in place on the set.
To start with, October will see Akshay Kumar starting work on Aanand L Rai’s Atrangi Re [co-starring Sara Ali Khan and Dhanush], while Rajkummar Rao and Kriti Sanon are set to team up on Second Innings. Likewise, Kartik Aaryan-starrer Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 will restart, in Mumbai. John Abraham will also face the camera from October 20 onwards for Satyameva Jayate 2, even as talks go that Ranbir Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor will kick off shoot for Luv Ranjan’s next in November. Several other films’ shoot are also likely to take off in the last quarter of 2020.
Experts estimate that following all the health/safety guidelines is going to cost anything between Rs two to five crore, depending on the cast-and-crew size, and days of shoot etc. Reportedly, the producers of Shakun Batra’s next (see box) are likely to add nearly Rs two crore to the film’s total budget owing to the same reason.
According to insiders, a majority of expenditure will go towards things such as daily Covid-19 tests, PPE kits, face shields, masks, gloves, ambulances, doctor, and special travel/accommodation arrangements, among other things. “Shooting itself will become time-consuming now,” says Satyameva Jayate 2 producer Nikkhil Advani, adding: “So, there will easily be 20-30% increase in the total number of days [required to complete a schedule].” Producer Boney Kapoor concurs, saying that “following all the guidelines, wearing masks/PPE kits etc., and having lesser number of crew members and will automatically slow down the pace” of work on the sets.
“For instance, if a particular amount of work would take 50 days in pre-Covid days, now, the number of days will go up to 60-65 days. And all of it equals to increased, bigger cost for producers,” says Kapoor, whose Ajay Devgn-starrer Maidaan is stuck in between due to the Covid-19 restrictions/lockdown.
For Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 director Anees Bazmee too, “it’ll all be like an extra burden.” “That too, at a time, when we are already living through a financially-challenging period,” he says, adding: “And it’s not as if makers will have an extra/new source of revenue overnight, because opportunities [of making money] remain the same. But what choice do we have? Plus, it’s a fact that we all have to restart our work/lives at some point.”
But makers agree in unison that what’s of “paramount importance” is the cast-and-crew’s “health, safety and security.” “After all, they are putting their complete trust in us. I’d rather cut down from other extravagant costs but there can’t be any compromise with health matters,” says Advani, adding: The great thing is I am getting full support from studios/platforms I’m working with. We need to fight off the situation together and come out of it,” says Advani, who has several other film/web projects in various stages of production.
Trade analyst Taran Adarsh readily admits that no producer “would like the extra financial strain.” “But a filmmaker is responsible for the well-being of their team/crew, and nothing can be bigger or more important than people’s safety/security,” he says. But eventually, things will settle down all of it becomes “a part of the new normal”, say insiders. As Kapoor puts it, “At the start, it may be a bit difficult to follow but slowly, we will get used to it as that’s going to be the way of life, at least for some time.”
Bell Bottom: In August, Akshay Kumar — along with the cast and crew — flew to Scotland to kick-start the film’s shoot.
Laal Singh Chaddha: Last month, Aamir Khan was seen in Turkey, where he was reportedly filming for his next project.
Shakun Batra’s next: The film’s shoot, which has already started, had to be shifted from Sri Lanka to Goa owing to Covid-19 induced travel restrictions.