Mumbai, August 9
There is a sense of relief and happiness among the senior film and TV actors after Bombay High Court dismissed the Maharashtra Government orders that barred performers above 65 years from resuming production amid the coronavirus lockdown.
The high court on Friday quashed the provisions of the two circulars issued by the state government, terming them “discriminatory”.
A Bench of Justices SJ Kathawalla and RI Chagla, while setting aside the resolutions issued by the state, held that such restriction breached the fundamental rights of the artistes to practice their trade and earn a livelihood with dignity.
The fight for the elder artistes was spearheaded by actor Promod Pandey and his industry colleagues, veteran artistes Raza Murad, Suhasini Mulay and Kanwaljit Singh among others have expressed gratitude to him for highlighting the plight of senior members in the field.
The court was hearing two petitions, one filed by 70-year-old actor Pandey, and another by the Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association (IMPPA).
A lesser known face, Pandey has worked in films such as Rajesh Khanna-starrer “Chhailla Babu”, TV shows like “Tujhse Hai Raabta”, and Ekta Kapoor’s web series “Aapharan”.
Pandey said, as a struggling actor in pre-coronavirus times, he was happy earning Rs 30,000-35,000 a month for a two-three day job in TV shows.
But when the lockdown came into effect in late March, expenses started piling up with no income.
“We were waiting for shoots to begin. Finally when the government gave its nod to begin but didn’t allow 65 plus actors and crew due to health reasons, I was surprised as we all have the right to earn livelihood,” Pandey told PTI.
The actor somehow arranged fees to file a petition and petitioners counsel Ashok Sarogi “helped a lot”.
“We are glad the high court gave the judgement in our favour,” he said, adding he has received job offers after the court ruling.
Murad, popular for films like “Ram Lakhan”, “Gupt: The Hidden Truth”, and “Padmaavat”, said as a character actor who hasn’t amassed wealth which can last 30 years, he was “feeling quite insecure” when the government guidelines were announced.
“We are character actors, not stars... The government’s guidelines were detrimental to our future income and we were feeling suffocated. We had a group of senior actors called ‘Mumbai 65’ but hats off to invisible crusader Pramod Pandey, who came out of nowhere and took this head on,” the 69-year-old actor said.
Murad welcomed the judgement and said he will soon begin shooting for a web series.
Mulay, 69, said the court order has come as a “great relief” for people her age. The actor, known for films like “Bhuvan Shome”, “Dil Chahta Hai”, and “Lagaan”, also thanked Pandey.
She also made a case for the lesser privileged crew members, including lightmen, electricians, makeup artistes, saying these artistes are the “most vulnerable”.
“Pramod Pandey isn’t a big actor but the fact that he went to court shows his desperation. If he didn’t work, how was the guy going to feed his family?” asked Mulay.
Expressing concern over the pandemic-induced uncertainty, the actor said she might have to be idle for the coming four months as the shooting of a Netflix show she was supposed to work on before the lockdown has been pushed to November.
“We aren’t on a monthly salary. The day we work is the day we get paid. As an actor, I can still charge some amount of money, but the more vulnerable ones depend on daily shoots,” she added.
Singh, 68, said he too lost out on a job opportunity, the upcoming show “Sandwich”, due to the now-quashed order.
“I was working on it and I was replaced because of the decision. The producers waited for months. Since they started shooting for the show recently, I suggested they go ahead with another actor.”
The actor, known for films like “Satte Pe Satta”, “Maachis”, and TV shows “Buniyaad”, “Saans”, said the overturning of the decision was only a matter of time.
“The prime minister of our country, all those in the Parliament are above 65 and they all were working, so why not allow us?” he argued.
“This is because of one man Pramod Pandey. All thanks to him. He is not a member of CINTAA and he did it all on his own. There is a group of 65-year-old actors and we all are sharing the cost with him,” Singh added.
Veteran actor Surekha Sikri, 75, said she is “extremely happy” with the decision.
“I am relieved... There were few offers for ad films that I had received a while ago, but I couldn’t do it due to the age factor guidelines. I am waiting to get back on set,” the “Badhaai Ho!” star said.
Popular TV actor Ghanshyam Nayak, who plays Nattu kaka in the long-running hit comedy series “Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah”, is looking forward to restarting work on the show.
“I have received a call from the production team saying my work will begin soon. I am thankful to all those who raised our issue and supported us,” the 76-year-old said.
Megastar Amitabh Bachchan, the busiest senior actor in the industry, too expressed “anxieties” over finding work opportunities amid the pandemic as a septuagenarian.
The 77-year-old actor returned home after testing negative for COVID-19 last week.
Though the actor hailed the court’s decision in favour of the elder artistes, he said it may be “packers” for the senior workforce in the film industry as legal procedures take time to come into effect.
“I believe the Honourable High Court has disallowed the age limit restrictions and so for the moment those above 50 are safe to work .. but Courts and Legal procedures take time and I wonder what shall come out of it.” PTI
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