Actor Ronit Roy was set to have back to back shoots all through this year before lockdown struck and brought things to a standstill. Among them was the Yash Raj Films’ period epic Shamshera starring Ranbir Kapoor, Sanjay Gupta’s Mumbai Saga, an untitled Tamil Film starring Jayam Ravi and a new season of Disney+ Hotstar’s Hostages.
The actor, known for successfully straddling careers across TV, film and now streaming, has been vocal about the economic impact of the pandemic on the TV industry where many actors and technicians still haven’t been paid. Ahead of the release of the third season of his ALTBalaji series Kehne Ko Humsafar Hai, he spoke to me about the current plight of the TV industry.
Like most industries, the current pandemic has really hit the TV industry, and you’ve been very vocal about actors and technicians not getting paid. Has there been any change? Do you know if producers have reached out to them?
I don’t know for a fact whether my cries have been heard yet or not, I hope they are. On the one hand, you have signed a contract which says you’ll only get paid within 90 days and one needs to honour that contract.
The 90 day rule is in place because the actor provides his talent to the producer. The producer then finishes the episodes and provides it to the channel. The channel then invites the advertisers who use to sell to the market. When those products receive money, the advertiser pays the channel, the channel pays the producer and the producer pays the actor. That is the cycle.
Having said that, we are going through extraordinary times and these times call for extraordinary measures. Just on a human level, we all need to work together. And it’s not just the actors, the technicians, the workers, everyone has the same 90 day clause. But they have families and children and they need to stay afloat. You (producers) have a crunch like everybody else, but you are better at swinging through this than a lower person on the run. He can’t swing it for himself, he is completely dependent on you. So it is up to you. Don’t pay the full amount if you can’t, but pay something, do something to keep them going. I hope they are listening and they do it soon.
Do you think this whole situation could change how the TV industry functions? Whether it’s the 90-day clause or maybe shooting full seasons in advance?
I don’t know if the contracts will change but that is for us to think about later. Right now, we don’t want people to sink, that is what of immediate concern. So, raise some funds, sell some equity, do what needs to be done to get them through and then these things can be debated. It is a long debate which will involve lots of government bodies. It is not a decision one person can take. These will have to be drafted and redrafted on a table with very eminent people from the industry. But there definitely will be a shift.