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TV Producers STRIKE-BACK at the FWICE allegations; condemn the mock funeral!

The makers break silence over the strike in 7 core statements…

FWICE’s strike grabbed eyeballs as Tellyland fell in chaos. So much that the producers’ organization had to hold a conference to clear the air and offer a larger question. The conference began with a summary of the incidents that led up to J.D Majethia’s mock funeral being carried out. The reason behind the protest was called void as the producers claim to have no knowledge of who the protesters are. We know a few facts from the protesters’ viewpoint and now the other side has finally spoken.

We were given a comparative chart of the lowest earner of the set (the spot-boy) against that an MBA graduate, an architect and an engineer. They use the word “condemn” at the drop of the hat and here’s what the clarification looked like –

J.D Majethia, Hat’s Off Productions

Half the people protesting are unknown to us

“Our industry has never seen rage of this kind. There was one huge strike in 2008 after which we producers got together and changed the industry to avoid conflicts. Our workers have progressed a lot and demands have increased but when for once their demands aren’t met, they strike. Half the people protesting are unknown to us. 90% of them are fanatics who speak of violence and they have lied to the media. They talk of producers not giving them increment while we have given them a 13% increment with the condition that restricts them from going on strike. As the costs rose, and further demands of increment couldn’t be met. TV industry’s GRP has gone down and things have got worse for both the workers and the producers.”

There seems there are divisions in the unions between the workers with whom there were negotiations. They were given 7% increment and conveyance too. Then there was the insurance debacle for which the producers claimed the sets to be completely insured since insurance is compulsory. Assuming that he is being blamed as the nominal head, J.D moves from the centre seat and requests Rakesh to take the seat –

Rakesh Paswan, Village Boy Productions

About the food topic, I think ours is the only industry that provides food everyday.

“We work like a family and so the problems are solved in unison. This time, however, the offenders have crossed the line and have made a personal attack. Apart from Film City, they also targeted his home and I want to ask who’s doing the strike? Our units are happily enjoying a long association with us. No shoots have stopped and the work has continued. There are assumptions that producers exploit people but you need to see the truth. Wages have increased but the budgets for the shows have taken a dip. About the food topic, I think ours is the only industry that provides food everyday. In the 40’s-50’s we started this tradition since everyone came from far and worked for odd hours, we arranged food since work is done everyday. Our sets are air-conditioned and everyone works there together. The masses reading newspapers think we are exploiting people and this is because of the outright lies people are saying.”

The producers say that they aren’t denying anybody’s right to strike but what they did was unfair and so we’re angry. We have spoken to our workers and they have told us that they do not support the strike. Federation ka naam liya jaa raha hai par waha koi hai hi nahi, log galat picture paint kar rahe hai. Broadcasters are now planning to move out of the city.

Saurabh Tewari, Parin Multimedia

Because of the situations here, in 5 to 7 years, we’ll gradually end up having an industry grow there and entertainment that is the heart of the city will move out. This needs to be curbed.

“It’s been long debated whether we should experiment with a few TV shows outside Mumbai. In 2017 we got a mandate to base a show in Delhi and we tried working with Delhi units but we realized it’s very difficult and so we took units from Mumbai. There are 65 workers on set and they are all from Mumbai, apart from actors of Zindagi Ki Mehek everyone is from this industry. Nobody from there wants to join the strike, they are fine with their situation. Because of the situations, in 5 to 7 years, we’ll gradually end up having an industry grow there and entertainment that is the heart of the city will move out. This needs to be curbed. Being creative people we aren’t used to working like this. We won’t sit in our office and let them create a chaotic environment. So we want to fix this otherwise we’ll be talking in a different city altogether.”

Rajan Shahi, Director’s Kut

In the morning, the production people and the producer are already at the gate of Film City to allow safe passage of the workers. On the first day of the strike, the cast of Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai was already shooting and after that other shows followed suit.

“When J.D was mocked I was very upset but then I thought who is doing this strike? In the morning the production people and the producer are already at the gate of Film City to allow safe passage of the workers. Our workers are being threatened so we have to monitor it. Probably 20% people are from the Federation. Baaki 80% pata nahi kaun hai. They can create problems and that is why we aren’t allowing media in. Even on the other sets, we have the same problem. All the shoots are on and it’s a perception game. On the first day of the strike team Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai was already shooting and after that other shows followed suit. More than 25 shoots were happening. We are being fair and false perceptions are at play. Even our workers wondered who is agitated outside. The cheap gimmicks against an esteemed producer are sad. Our workers are glad they are working inside.”

The workers are being protected and so interviewing them isn’t allowed right now. A question arose that probably the non-members and pay-per-day workers are causing dissatisfaction

Abhimanyu Singh, Contiloe Pictures

The idea of non-members causing dissatisfaction isn’t an issue

“As an association, I cannot compel any of my workers to work with other people. It is the right of an individual to employ another employee and if a non-member is hired, I cannot, keeping in mind the law object to it. Therefore, we can’t be compelled to sign the non-competitive agreement as well. Non- competition commission ke laws ke hisaab se hum kisi member ko force nahi kar sakte ke woh ek hi association se hire kare, they are free to hire who they want. A few years ago I needed Karali Pattayu experts for Maharana Pratap. The Fighter association said I cannot hire them since they aren’t a part of the association. The experts were scared off by this and my sequence couldn’t take place. We are here to promote arts but we couldn’t offer that opportunity. So, the idea of non-members causing dissatisfaction isn’t an issue.”

We are told that apart from absolute necessity, producers don’t hire from outside. We wondered what the way forward is –

Rahul Tiwari, Swastik Pictures

They have internal disputes and they are fighting among each other

“Jitne producers yaha par hai, I don’t think we are perfect. There is always an opportunity to grow. In any industry, there’s room for improvement. We think the conflict right now is internal. In our industry, we have a union that stands by the producers and there is a faction against it. They have internal disputes and they are fighting among each other. It goes like tumne 7% hike liya, hum 12% leke dikhaayenge. The whole issue is about testing each other’s power. Our workers don’t have a problem so we don’t know who’s doing it. We think we are getting targeted in matters of internal conflicts. Our representative is J.D but the voice is collective.”

Asit Kumarr Modi, Neela Tele Films

We cannot take risks with the workers’ safety.

“The way the protests are happening is disheartening. In Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah workers haven’t been replaced and have been with us for the longest time. Even in CID, the workers are the same, we are like family. You can come on set and see how we function. I even asked them if there is any animosity and they said there aren’t any. About protection, it’s my responsibility to protect them. We cannot take risks with the workers’ safety. We have tried hard to resolve the issues. This is an industry where what the workers eat is the same food that the higher-ups eat. We work with so much unity. We aren’t taking this as a victory, we are upset about the strike. We hope they realise their mistakes.”

Vikas Gupta, Lost Boy Productions

This is not how a peaceful strike is done!

“Most workers are standing by their producers because of the disturbing manner in which the strike is taking place. It’s so wrong that people are being attacked, an actors car was vandalized, this is not how a peaceful strike is done. As producers we want the issue to be resolved peacefully and that’s very important.”

The protesters seem to be rigid, so much that even if the producers beg to them, the strike will go on. So a logical negotiation is out of the question right now. We are told that according to court orders, the protesters aren’t allowed to barge into the sets and so it’s limited to outside the gates. With the situation at hand, we are planning to approach the law again and we’ll do what they deem fit. The producers were adamant that they will respond gracefully and tackle this with the least amount of damage.

The conference ended with producers asking “who is holding this strike and what do they stand to gain?”