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One may think that the TV stars lead glam lives, like their Bollywood counterparts. But the sad reality is that they work on sets under harsh lights, oodles of make-up and heavy jewellery and clothes. To make matters worse, the hours they keep are long, way too long. That had led to a lot of actors suffering from health issues as well. Divyanka Tripathi, who plays Saloni in Banoo Main Teri Dulhan shares her own experience which puts this problem into perspective very clearly.
"I worked for 18-20 hours. As a newcomer four years ago, I travelled by autos and it was a problem for me to get home after midnight. I'd sleep for only two to three hours; I'd lost weight. I used to fall sick but still I had to shoot. I used to feel frustrated and angry because of long working hours. But there was no choice but to work."
In the past, 9-hour shifts including an hour's lunch break were the norm. But when daily soaps started, the 9-hour shift went for a toss. As working hours increased, the quantity of work went up while quality suffered. Physical burnout, mental stress, pressure to meet deadlines and actors collapsing on the sets became a part of daily soaps. Acting on the complaints of actors and technicians, the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) — which arbitrates and decides on wages, working hours and work conditions — first tried to stop shooting beyond 12 hours. But when it didn't work, FWICE made it mandatory for all its member associations, including producers, to strictly follow a 12-hour schedule. This decision has been welcomed by actors. But will it result in a large enough bank of episodes? "I think it's working quite well. Earlier everyone used to be quite hyper and tense, but now the output is better because things are more organised and people are working in a relaxed manner," says Karan Mehra, who plays the lead character of Naitik in Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai. According to Urvashi Dholakia, better known as Komolika of Kasauti, some sort of sanity has come into the system. "I remember shooting for anything between 18 to 36 hours at a stretch. That was insane. A 12-hour shift looks good as long as it lasts," she says. Welcoming the new work schedule, lead protagonist of Gulaal, Manasi Parekh says, "It is good for actors and technicians. My health had gone for a toss when I had to work for more than 20 hours without breaks," she informs. So feels Ronit Roy, "It's insane to work day and night. But more than actors, it's a big relief for technicians who use public transport to reach home." It's a boon for actors too. Says Hiten Tejwani, "I didn't have a personal life when I was doing three shows. I used to work for 18 to 20 hours every day."
But does a 12-hour shift mean qualitative changes? "It is conducive to a good working atmosphere. But quality work happens only when there is good writing and good execution," says Ronit. Producer Pintoo Guha of Uttaran sounds circumspect. He explains. "When you have only dailies at prime time on all channels, it's going to be difficult to meet the demand for quality software in 12-hour shifts."
While quality remains a major concern, Hiten believes that discipline will result in better quality. "When you know you can't extend shoots beyond 12 hours, people will be more serious about their work," he feels.
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