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Coronavirus: Daily wage earners in the Hindi film industry worst affected by Covid-19 lockdown

The Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) has come forward to help with essential items

By PTI
  • Published 1.04.20, 5:39 PM
  • Updated 1.04.20, 5:39 PM
  • 3 mins read
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Thousands of people who form the backbone of Bollywood and are struggling to survive the three-week lockdown that has brought the industry to a grinding halt. (Image used for representational purpose) Shutterstock

Pushed to the edge of penury in the twilight of her life, 72-year-old Tarabai Mandre is one of the thousands of people who form the backbone of Bollywood and are struggling to survive the three-week lockdown that has brought the industry to a grinding halt. Mandre, a senior citizen but a junior artiste who has worked in films and TV shows for 25 years, is one among spot boys, makeup artists, camerapersons, extras and a host of others who provide grist for the glitter and glamour industry.

Money has always been tight for Mandre, who is now dependent on the kindness of neighbours for her day-to-day needs. But this time is different. “I have never faced such a terrible situation in my life. My sister and her two sons stay in Wai, about 200 km away. I have no money to go there,” Mandre told PTI. “My neighbours are helping me with rations. They have given me essential items which will last for about 10 to 15 days. I am trying to adjust. I hope and pray normalcy returns and there is some work for us,” she said.

The Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE), an umbrella body with a membership of five lakh people, has come forward to help daily wagers with essential items. Some producers and actors have also stepped in to offer help. Actor Salman Khan, for instance, has pledged to financially support 25,000 labourers in the film industry while filmmaker Rohit Shetty has donated Rs 52 lakh to the federation. But the help is yet to reach those in need. Mandre said she has been told she will get Rs 1,000 in her account and is waiting to receive the money.

Koshal Sharma, 26, who works as a spot boy, is down to his last Rs 100. He is trapped with no money to stay and no money to leave either. He wants to go back home to Jammu and Kashmir but just doesn't know how. His brother works as a security guard and also earns little. “I stay with my brother in a ‘chawl'. The landlord has been asking for rent. They are also facing difficulties. Plus, there are household expenses.” On a good day, Koshal earns up to Rs 1,200. “It is getting increasingly more difficult to survive. I have been living here for four years but still don't know who to ask for help,” he added.

Paro Tai Tamas, who has been working as a junior artiste for 40 years, has enough emotional sustenance but no money with all the earning members of her family sitting at home. “We are a family of eight. My husband and son drive autos but both are at home. My three-month-old granddaughter was admitted to hospital due to pneumonia and we spent almost Rs 25,000 on her treatment. So it is really difficult to manage,” she said. Actors like Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan have always helped them financially. However, their help is yet to reach this time, she said.

Neeraj Thakur, a makeup artist who earned about Rs 1,500 a day, is getting essentials from the federation. ”With everything shut, I'm facing a lot of difficulties. Since there's no shooting happening, there's no mode of payment. We take basic essential items provided by the federation. I'm using whatever little money is left in my account. During the crisis, everything in the market has become so expensive. How do we manage?” His colleague Sujeet Prasad, who also works as a makeup artist, said this is the worst crisis for anyone to be in, especially daily wage workers like him. ”I've been working for several years but nothing like this has happened before. I earn about Rs 1,500 per day. We are financially hit, we are worried about groceries,” Sujeet said. ”I was working on a film called Bachcha Gang before the shooting was called off. It had only been six days and we were shooting in Mirzapur. Then we had to come back and I've been home since mid-March,” he said.