TV industry keeps its guard up again to fight third wave of Covid-19: ‘But the show will go on’

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With the rise in Covid-19 cases in India, the fear of lockdown is looming over many states. Maharashtra has been under the spotlight, having reported 26,538 new cases on Wednesday. Mumbai alone contributed to it with more than 15,000 cases. With restrictions imposed in Mumbai, the television industry is also going the extra mile to safeguard itself.

As per sources, discussions already started in TV boardrooms last week after Mumbai reported several Omicron cases. Also, with most cast and crew traveling around New Year, a rise in cases was expected. In the last week, celebrities like Delnaaz Irani, Sumona Chakravarti, Erica Fernandes, Sharad Malhotra, Ekta Kapoor tested positive for coronavirus and are all quarantined at home.

A source in a popular GEC told indianexpress.com, “Of course, there is a threat but the last two years has taught us how to handle the crisis. When the pandemic hit us in 2020, we did not have any idea about what it is and how to fight it. Now, with most of the cast and crew vaccinated, we are in a better position. We just need to continue taking precautions, that’s the only way to move ahead.”

The Indian television industry is gearing up to fight the third wave of coronavirus in the country.

In 2020, shoots were halted for close to four months leading to a huge financial loss. Jobs were lost, mental health took a toll and people even took some drastic steps as they failed to fight the hurdles. Last year, however, during the second wave, channels decided to move their shows outside Mumbai rather than shut down production. Even though shooting outdoors remains an option, makers are trying to settle for stricter rules and continue to shoot in the city.

JD Majethia, chairman, Indian Films and Television Producers Council, told us that given the industry is now recognised as frontline workers, they cannot stop working. “We are internally discussing how to manage the situation with the experience of the past waves. We will follow the SOPs. We will be communicating with the government asap about how can we stand by the state in spreading the necessary awareness. We will be frontline workers by keeping people entertained and at home,” he said.

Frames Productions’ Ranjit Thakur further shared that the production house has already decided to shoot with fewer people to ensure a safer work environment. Other production houses too have decided to work with lesser workforce. As of now, no team across channels has been asked to move under a bio bubble but cast and crew have been told to be careful. Recently, The Kapil Sharma Show and India’s Best Dancer, which is set to air its finale this weekend, shot with an audience. Most of the reality shows may decide to head back to the ‘no studio audience’ stance as a precaution.

The Kapil Sharma Show had placed cutouts on set instead of studio audience when it resumed shoot in 2020.

As for fiction television, no new SOP or guidelines have been introduced but the teams are exercising caution on set. Writer Sharad Chandra Tripathi shared that as of now they haven’t been asked to work around alternate storylines or introduce an outdoor setting. “Everything seems normal right now on set. People have understood that only if they let their guards down, will they be in danger. Anyone who is testing positive is thankfully having mild symptoms and recovering well. One thing for sure is that the show will go on. There is no way that we will stop working.”

Most production houses have also gotten doctors to visit the set and do a regular check-up every two days. A source from Sasural Genda Phool informed us that the team has been strictly following all protocols and getting tested at regular intervals. “We all know that this won’t go soon. Masks, sanitisers and social distancing are the only way ahead. It’s actually upon us how we keep ourselves safe. A few cases in the industry have indeed added to the fear but we cannot surrender. Hence, we are pulling up our guards higher right now so that work doesn’t get affected,” she added.

A health-check up station on a TV set. 

Actor Angad Hasija, who recently joined SABTV’s Ziddi Dil Maane Na, further shared that there’s no apprehension in anyone to be working on a set right now. As he was in shooting in Punjab, he takes it as a special start to 2022 to resume work in Mumbai.

“We need to step out of the house as you have to continue working. One needs to be careful, sanitise and maintain a safe distance from people. The production house and the channel are taking utmost precautions, and it’s been good so far. Let’s be hopeful about the situation ahead as from what information I have gained, it seems this variant is mild. Just keep wearing your mask properly and avoid crowded places,” the actor concluded.

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