MUMBAI: Last year Hollywood almost came to a standstill for three months when the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on an unrelenting strike for almost three months. Their issue was an increase in writers’ share in lieu of the new content delivery platforms that had emerged.
The wave seems to have hit Bollywood but not necessary for the same reasons. Bollywood workers went on an indefinite strike today (1 October) due to irregular payment structure and the hiring of non-union members.
Reports suggest that actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan have also joined the Bollywood army of dancers, writers and technicians in the strike. However, at the time of filing this story, neither Bachchan nor Khan were available to comment on the same.
The strike comes at a time when the inauspicious ‘shradh’ period is just over and festivities began yesterday with Eid and Diwali round the corner. Big ticket movies are slated to release in the coming few months. While it is unlikely that the strike will affect movies like Drona and Kidnap, which are ready for release, it is definitely going to affect the ones that are on floors at present.
It may be recalled that the WGA strike in Hollywood affected the release of a whole lot of movies including the Johnny Depp and Amitabh Bachchan starrer Shantaram to be directed by Mira Nair.
The Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) is supporting the strike.
FWICE had inked a three year MoU with producers and this is the second year of the MoU.
Technicians of over 22 crafts are adhering to the non-cooperation movement that has been called owing to the outstanding payments that are due to the workers of these crafts. These include directors, actors and all film technicians as well. The boycott is supported by over 1.14 lakhs workers, including directors and actors.
Even big names like Nitin Desai, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Amitabh Bachchan are in support of this boycott. It is learnt that Koena Mitra who was dubbing in a studio, on hearing the news returned back home in support of the strike.
Speaking exclusively to Businessofcinema.com FWICE senior vice president Madan Prakash says, "We have been writing to them for the last year and it is only after no action was taken that we called for this action. We are not asking them for anything extra, we just want them to honour their commitments. The MoU clearly states the payments that need to be made but that is only in writing and it is not practically followed. Even minimum wages for directors, which amounts to Rs 6,70,714 is not being paid to them."
Association of Cine and TV Art Directors (ACTAD) senior vice president Naveen Shetty added, "It’s not just about directors, even carpenters who get only Rs 479 or their assistants who get Rs 396 have not been paid. Our workers are made to work for 24 hours at a stretch and neither do they get a break nor get paid."
Any members of the Federation found flouting the boycott will be subjected to disciplinary action. It is learnt that over 70 films shooting have been affected due to this and all the films dubbing currently are also affected.
This matter will be addressed when the bodies of the producers – Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association (IMPAA), Association of Motion Pictures & TV Programme Producers (AMPTPP) and Film & TV Producers Guild of India will hold a joint meeting in the coming days and will make efforts to clear the payments. However until that date the boycott will be carried out.
Some of the movies that are on floors currently in India are Rajkumar Hirani’s 3 Idiots starring Aamir Khan, Madhavan, Kareena Kapoor; Rajkumar Santoshi’s Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani starring Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif, Vashu Bhagnani’s Do Knot Disturb starring Govinda, Riteish Deshmukh, Sushmita Sen, Lara Dutta and Venus Films’ Hissss starring Mallika Sherawat, Irrfan Khan, Raman Trikha.
“Shooting for Hissss has been stalled. We will be incurring a loss of almost Rs 5 – 7 lakhs per day if the strike goes on. The sets of our film have been erected at Filmistan Studios and obviously we are going to be charged for it whether we shoot or not. We were in the midst of shooting the climax for The Hissss. However one needs to be supportive of the demands of the people,” says actor Trikha.
(With inputs from ROHINI BHANDARI & SANJAY RAM)