The big picture is yet to be revealed

A still from the sets of Naveen Reddy's Khakhi featuring Chiranjeevi Sarja

A still from the sets of Naveen Reddy's Khakhi featuring Chiranjeevi Sarja   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Clapper boards are back in use as the film industry switches the lights on. However, State Government guidelines differ in the States and theatres remain closed. MetroPlus explores what the scene is like in sets where work has begun


All through lockdown, post-production work of projects helmed by filmmakers such as Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, Rajeev Ravi and Lijo Jose Pellissery were in progress. However, it was only on June 16 that actual shooting resumed, with several restrictions, in Kochi with Lal Jr’s Tsunami at the French Toast Café. “Only indoor shoots are allowed for the time being and so the script has been reworked for the same,” says Aneesh Perumbilavu, the film’s production executive. Aju Varghese, one of the actors in the film, says, “It’s been more than 100 days since I have been on a film set. So I was happy to be back at work.”

M Ranjith, president, Kerala Film Producers’ Association (KFPA), says they have given the green signal to a few films like Suresh Thiruvalla’s movie that only had a few days remaining to be wrapped up. “No new films will be given permission to begin shooting as of now... until there is more clarity on the reopening of theatres and outdoor shoots,” he says.

Most of the shoots for serials and films besides post production work have resumed at the Government-owned Chitranjali Studio in Thiruvananthapuram. “Work on serials is going on in full swing. For films, there are a few patch-up shots to be completed. Asok R Nath’s Kaanthi was completed during lockdown. Dubbing and sound mixing are also happening, but with staggered timings and minimum number of people,” says Sathish Devadas, studio manager at Chitranjali.

The KFPA also held meetings with distributors and theatre owners last week. Ranjith adds that he had written to the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) and Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA) asking stars and technicians to reduce their fees. “While FEFKA has responded favourably to our request, we are yet to hear from AMMA,” he says.

Lal and son Jean-Paul Lal on the set of ‘Tsunami’ in Kochi

Lal and son Jean-Paul Lal on the set of ‘Tsunami’ in Kochi   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

In the meantime, actor Grace Antony turned director with a short film ‘Ka-nowledge’, a child-centric film scripted by her. The shooting of it had to be stopped due to the lockdown. “We resumed shooting with a great deal of care and managed to complete the film. We hope to release it soon,” says Grace.

Sources says that talks are in progress for a couple of films made for OTT platforms. Dulquer Salman’s home production ‘Maniarayiley Ashokan’ may be released on OTT platforms and another young star’s production house may also bankroll a film to be released on OTT.

New takes
  • In order to facilitate physical distancing on the sets, the Maharashtra government guidelines recommend reducing the crew strength to 33%, not including the main cast, and to identify activities that can be done remotely for the rest. Cast and crew above the age of 65 are not be allowed on the sets.
  • Staff have to carry an identification card and use the Aarogya Setu app. On arrival on the sets, crew members have to get their temperature checked and every studio has to have an ambulance, a doctor and a nurse. The sets have to be fumigated daily, including post-production areas like edit rooms.
  • Temperature checks for every unit member, sanitiser and handwashing stands, ensuring social distancing, and PPE kits for those who work in close proximity, such as makeup and hair stylists.
  • During the shoot, all members present on the sets have to wear masks and gloves, except those being filmed, and maintain basic rules of hygiene. Tasks that require close contact like applying make-up, require the make-up artistes to wear a face shield and mics have to be labelled according to the artistes who use them.
  • For reality shows, seating arrangements are to be made keeping in mind adequate physical distancing, which includes three separate tables for judges, instead of one long table.
  • The Producers Guild of India has also presented a ‘Back to Action report’ recommending standard operating procedures (SOPs), which are similar to the State government’s guidelines.


Earlier this month, the Maharashtra Government allowed shooting to resume subject to guidelines issued by the State.

According to these guidelines, precautionary measures are to be taken by all technical departments from casting to catering, and especially by those who handle and operate camera and lighting equipment.

In Bollywood, things are slowly coming back to normal in the post-production department. For instance, Neerja filmmaker Ram Madhvani wrapped up the post-production of his upcoming Aarya, an original series which will be available on Disney+ Hotstar.

“We have been doing dubbing in the last three months,” he says. Actor Swara Bhaskar also recently tweeted a couple of photos of herself dubbing for an upcoming film.

Telangana and Andhra Pradesh

Telugu TV and web series units are cautiously resuming work with minimal crews. The Telangana and Andhra Pradesh State Governments have given the nod for film and television shooting following Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) detailed by the respective State health ministries. However, most crews in the Telugu film industry want to wait and watch.

Producer Shobu Yarlagadda of Arka Media Works explains that shooting schedules for television most often happen in a controlled environment, such as the interiors of a house or an office and it’s relatively easier to work with small crews. However, he asserts that one size doesn’t fit all. Talking of film crews, he says, “Apart from the risk of COVID-19, there’s also the uncertainty of when theatres will reopen. Film crews that were at the fag end of their schedule prior to the lockdown might consider working if theatres reopen and if the audience return to the halls,” he says. Shooting for one of the television shows for ETV Telugu, produced by Arka Media, has begun this week.

At Annapurna Studios in Hyderabad, protocols are in place for units that want to resume work. Supriya Yarlagadda, who oversees the studio operations, says TV crews are more likely to begin functioning since they are assured that their work will be on air. The same goes for web series. “It’s going to be a slow and cautious return to work. We will allow only those necessary to be on the set to enter the studio premises. It will take time for units to find a sweet spot between taking some calculated risks, following safety measures and being able to work efficiently without fear,” she says.Among films, SS Rajamouli’s ambitious RRR, starring NTR and Ram Charan, had planned to conduct a test shoot with a small crew but has decided to wait.

For now, Telugu film units are steering clear of action episodes and elaborately-mounted dance sequences that require a number of people on the set. A-list stars, we hear, are in no hurry to return to the sets. Stars usually work with six to 10 staff members and they feel there’s a great risk to themselves and their team.

Shoot at site Working stills from Tsunami and Khakhi Special Arrangement DSLR camera.

Shoot at site Working stills from Tsunami and Khakhi Special Arrangement DSLR camera.  


The past week seems to have brought some respite for the Kannada film industry. DR Jairaj, chairman, Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, sounds elated when he says the Government has given the green signal to resume shooting. “The industry has been given a few guidelines on how the unit has to be sanitised and how food has to be served. Each artiste has to sign a self-declaration about their health and will be checked for fever and cough. The guidelines allow for a 40-member crew but we have asked for 50 people,” he says.

Jairaj says KFCC is happy with the decision as so many livelihoods have come to a standstill. “All we can do now is tread carefully and see what works through trial and error,” he says, adding that he is pushing for the opening of theatres as “films should reach people”. “It will be tough but we will push for as much normalcy as possible,” he says.

Ayogya director Mahesh welcomed the order. “The television industry was allowed to start work some time ago. We were wondering why we were not allowed to work,” he says. He adds that actors older than 60 and younger than 15 need to bring a health certificate.

“Actors are supposed to come in only during their shot and leave as soon as they are done. They should not unnecessarily loiter around,” he says, adding, “But permission to work is a blessing indeed.”

Tamil Nadu

Film and television shoots are suspended until June 30 due to the lockdown imposed by the Government of Tamil Nadu. Filming for TV serials alone had resumed for a few days this month, after the Government gave permission following much deliberation and discussions with film technicians union, FEFSI, as well as small- screen representatives.

During the few days she was out filming, actor Roshni Haripriyan, who plays one of the lead roles in Star Vijay’s soap Bharathi Kannamma, recalls how anxious it felt. “I had to keep in mind to maintain distance from co-artistes and technicians. I was scared because I live with my aged parents. I couldn’t help but think what if I contracted the virus because of one careless moment and then brought it home. So I decided to quarantine myself after shoots and did not interact with my parents or meet friends,” she says.

TV channels also tried to minimise risks by not inviting artistes aged over 60 or child artistes aged below 10 to participate in shoots. “We were told to tell these artistes that there was no character for them,” says Praveen Bennett, director for Bharathi Kannamma. On the shoot floor, only the director, assistant director, cameraman, his assistant and two light men would be present besides the artistes. “It felt like we were shooting in an ICU ward. Everyone had their masks and gloves on,” says Praveen.

(With inputs from Athira M, Kenneth Rosario, Pradeep Kumar, Sangeetha Devi Dundoo, Saraswathy Nagarajan and Shilpa Sebastian R)

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2020 8:43:40 PM |

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