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Pay Cuts Still a Thorny Issue, Say Producers as they Stare at Mounting Losses

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In the wake of a financial crisis caused by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, talks of pay cuts in the film industry have been looming for a while now. With the reopening of cinema halls around the corner, these talks now seem imminent. 

Recently, the Telugu film industry decided on a mandatory 20% reduction in remunerations for all artists and technicians. Exception from this pay cut had been made for artists who charge Rs 20,000 per day, a statement from the Movie Artistes Association and the Active Telugu Film Producers’ Guild said. Confirming that there was some resistance from actors, some members of the Kerala Film Producers Association recently told The Times of India that 75% of the industry’s stars have finally agreed to take a pay cut.

In the Hindi film industry, Shahid Kapoor has reportedly volunteered to slash his fees by a massive Rs 8 crore and has settled for Rs 25 crore as his remuneration for his upcoming Hindi remake of Jersey.

Pay cuts, however, is still a thorny subject, say pan-industry producers.

“We can’t enforce it, all we can do is request. We need to pay everyone according to the agreements. In the case of my film, talks are still on regarding the pay cut but no one has agreed yet because the pandemic has affected one and all,” said film producer G Dhananjayan, who has produced films such as Kaatrin Mozhi, Kanden Kadhalai and is awaiting the release of Kabadadaari.

The film producer said that he has suffered losses worth nearly Rs 1 crore due to delay in filming caused by the lockdown. Speaking about whether pay cuts would help, he said: “If the pay cut is agreed upon, the loss could be made up a bit and it will be a partially good release for me. I am hoping that it happens.”

SR Prabhu of Dream Warrior Pictures, who is bankrolling Karthi’s Sulthan, says it is a delicate issue but the industry has to find a middle ground. “It is a suggestion that nobody can mandate. In the past, several technicians and artists have come forward during normal times and reduced their remuneration. Maybe as advice, it can come from an association and we are working on that. Other industries have already announced the same because they have an active association there. Here, there are some issues in the actor’s association and the producer’s council also is undergoing changes,” he said.

Speaking to Silverscreen India; Mukesh R Mehta, of E4 Entertainment and Varmaa producer, said: “This may help people who are out of work. Some artists will agree to taking a pay cut depending on their relationship with the producer. One thing is for sure that the cost of shoots will go up to implement Covid-19 guidelines. So how does one recover the money? Any association can only set down rules but what’s the guarantee that if the 20% pay cut is successful, an actor will still get the same number of projects or that shoots will start?”

Requesting anonymity, a producer whose film is almost complete, told Silverscreen India that the decision needs to be taken by the industry or the people concerned should meet and solve the issue in private.

Others confirmed that actors and technicians were being asked to accept a pay cut but they haven’t been able to make a final decision.

The picture, however, is not that grim.

Vijay Antony had announced a 25% pay cut for three of his upcoming films- Tamizharasan, Agni Siragugal, and Khaki. Actors and directors like Harish Kalyan, Mahat, Hari, and R Ajay Gnanamuthu, had also put out statements saying they were either taking pay cuts or ready to take the same. Fahadh Faasil and Mahesh Narayanan, who recently delivered the hit Malayalam film C U Soon, donated Rs 10 lakh from the profit generated by the project to the Film Employees Federation of Kerala. B Unnikrishnan, general secretary of FEFKA, took to social media and thanked the two for this gesture.

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