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Bollywood Unlocks: Actors Don Shields to Resume Shooting Amid New Normal in Age of COVID

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New Delhi (Sputnik): The Indian Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s recent announcement of a standard operating procedure (SOP) is based on international standards, and lists elaborative protocols to ensure there is proper sanitisation, crowd management, and social distancing during shooting for the entertainment industry. 

Sets on Bollywood films and TV shows are once again buzzing with the sounds of… Lights, Camera, Action, as various actors and directors have returned to work. But this time the environment feels changed, courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic.

India's Information and Broadcasting Ministry has announced an standard operating procedure (SOP) before anyone resumes shooting for films or TV shows.

With new rules and procedures announced for the film industry to resume shooting, actors, producers, and trade analysts are all set to adjust to a new normal. Many filmmakers and actors are gearing up to start filming for their projects in full swing. 

However, there are others who feel it’s a bit too early and risky to return to work.

Sputnik talked to a host of Bollywood personalities to explore how the entertainment industry is resuming operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic and what plans celebrities have as they embrace the new normal and get back to work after a months-long hiatus.

The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) 

Describing the SOP, an apt guideline to encourage actors and directors to restart shooting, Producer T.P. Aggarwal, the President of the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA), told Sputnik: "The SOP cuts down on many restrictions".

"As per the previous guidelines, senior citizen actors were prohibited to work on the sets due to higher risk. But the new SOP allows them to shoot once again with proper preventive measures in place", he adds.  

​Adapting to the new normal, 77-year-old superstar Amitabh Bachchan, who recently recovered from COVID-19, shared a glimpse of his resuming shooting for 12th season of his famous TV game show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), based on the British programme Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Sharing the new experience on his blog, Bachchan wrote: "There is a loss of camaraderie .. no one speaks unless its work related .. its like a laboratory where some rather deep scientific experiments abound ... we muster up the fears and be on .. there is great consideration and care being extended .. all precautions carefully worked out and followed…".

The unlock phase for the entertainment industry started in mid-June, with TV showmakers resuming the shooting of their serials amid various preventive measures.

Explaining how the industry is gradually reviving amid the pandemic, Producer J.D. Majethia, the Chairman, TV wing, Indian Film and TV Producers' Council (IFTPC), told Sputnik: "It was easy to start with TV shows because it has an advantage of shooting indoors amid all the precautions as compared to films and web series".

"We have created a very controlled environment and experimented with new ways to shoot while following social distancing. And now with new SOP, directors can shoot outdoors depending on the COVID situation in that particular region", he said.

"The SOP also gives the authority to the State Government to add specific policies to ensure a safe shooting-friendly environment. Even set guidelines are out for the parking facilities and drivers. Everybody working on the sets is getting medical insurance to cover COVID-19 treatment, in case anyone requires it", he added.  

Joining the unlock bandwagon after Indian TV shows are the films that had to halt with just 10-15 days of shooting left.

From actors John Abraham, Arjun Kapoor, and Rakul Preet Singh resuming shooting for an untitled project, to actress Bhumi Pednekar finishing the last leg of the shoot for a remake of "Bhaagmathie" and star kids Ananya Panday and Ishaan Khattar rejoining the sets to complete their movie "Khaali Peeli", casts and crews are already back but in limited numbers. 

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"The films which were left with few days of shooting are the ones which had the big shot in the arm. Since production costs, payments, and other expenses were all stuck. At least these projects can now finish soon and be ready to release in a few months", film critic and trade analyst Joginder Tuteja told Sputnik.   

With the new SOP guidelines in place, many filmmakers are now chalking out plans to announce their new projects.

The grapevine has it that actors Deepika Padukone, Ananya Panday, and Siddhant Chaturvedi might start shooting for director Shakun Batra's next film in September.

Actress Vidya Balan's "Sherni" will start in October, along with star kid Sara Ali Khan, Dhanush and superstar Akshay Kumar movie "Atrangi Re" and Taapsee Pannu's "Rashmi Rocket". Superstar Salman Khan will also start shooting for "Radhe" soon and controversial reality TV show Bigg Boss 14 is set to resume as well.  

Bollywood's Hesitation in the Age of COVID

While some celebs have already blocked off dates for shooting, Aggarwal told Sputnik that "despite having the SOP in place, there are actors who are not willing to take the risk to start shooting as COVID-19 cases are still being recorded".

Bollywood trade analyst Taran Adarsh shared: "People are still very skeptical to start shooting for films due to social distancing and would rather wait for the shoots to happen like it used to earlier".

"You can't film an action sequence or intimate sequence in social distancing. Thus, many people are still waiting for things to get better. We will have to wait and watch how the industry reacts and unfolds", Adarsh added.

Shooting for TV Soap Operas

Unlike films, TV is a different ball game altogether as showmakers can experiment with different techniques to shoot amid social distancing.

Actor Shubhangi Atre, who is part of the popular sitcom "Bhabhiji Ghar Pe Hai" that resumed shooting during the first phase of the unclocking, told Sputnik the biggest challenge for actors is "to not touch their face while acting with no masks on or touch the surface around. Sub-consciously, you end up doing that which is tough to control".

"One might take some time to get the hang of it but we must not take these things lightly. It’s the new normal for the next few months and with all the necessary precautions, the show must go on", she added.

Taking up Shooting the Novel Way   

Actor Sharad Malhotra, currently shooting for a TV show called Naagin 5 told Sputnik: "I carry food too from home. There is no touching involved on the set. There is sanitiser in the car and my room too. We don't know when the vaccine will come, so we've to adapt to the new normal". 

Though many people still fear stepping out to shoot, actress Pooja Banerjee, shooting for two TV shows, Kumkum Bhagya and Kasautii Zindagii Kay, said: "It's better to embrace the new normal and live responsibly".

"We need to take calculative risk, make health a priority, and follow all the preventive measures than to live in fear of COVID-19. The WHO has mentioned that COVID-19 is here to stay for a while and since there is no vaccination, precaution is the only way", the actress stated. 

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