With the Mumbai film industry in shutdown due to the COVID – 19 outbreak, shoots have been stalled and releases pushed. It’s not just the big players who will be affected — Bollywood is a massive ecosystem, employing thousands in various unorganised sectors. From on-set caterers to junior artists to stuntmen and other daily wage workers, we bring you a series of short profiles of people who depend on the Hindi film industry for their livelihoods and how the lockdown is poised to affect their business.
Stuntwoman Geeta Tandon has been part of the industry since 2008. She talks about why this was a crucial earning period for her and how the pandemic has changed that:
“How am I managing? There’s nothing to manage. All the shoots that were scheduled have been cancelled. I’m just sitting at home, where will I go? I even can’t go outside because of this issue. There were so many outdoor shoots scheduled during this time – this is a season when films try to wrap up all their outdoor portions before the monsoon begins. I had one shoot on the 15th, another on the 18th, a third on the 23rd and so on. Bohot films cancel ho gaye, bohot. Full nuksaan samajh lo. When the monsoon starts, I don’t get work for two-three months. There’s maybe one or two shoots that I get during that period. So now was the time for me to earn a lot and that’s gone. I was doing around four films now – two days of shooting on one, 10 days on another here and there. That’s stopped.
I get paid per day of work. It’s usually around 5,000 rupees. If we don’t shoot, where am I going to get the money from now? I’ve been sitting at home since the 12th, even before this 15-day lockdown started, because cautious people had started cancelling their shoots early on.
I don’t know how long this is going to go on for, so you can imagine my losses. Once the pandemic ends, everyone will be a in a rush to complete their films. So then I’ll get a lot of work. I hope that happens soon.
I’m a single parent to two college-going children — a son and a daughter — who are dependent on my salary. My brother met with an accident and is currently in the hospital so I’m paying those bills too. I didn’t know that a relief fund has been set up. That’s good news.
I’m not the only one suffering, a majority of the people employed in this industry are daily-wage workers. The big guys are paid per month, but all the light men, spot boys, stunt people, are all people who get paid only on the days that they work. Otherwise they don’t. So they’ll suffer losses too.”
As told to Gayle Sequeira