Cine workers' wage hikes worry small, medium producers

Mumbai, Oct 24 (IANS) Shooting is on in full swing in Bollywood now that cine workers have got a wage hike after three days of protests. But small time filmmakers as well as television producers say they will be hit hard by the new agreement.

Mumbai, Oct 24 (IANS) Shooting is on in full swing in Bollywood now that cine workers have got a wage hike after three days of protests. But small time filmmakers as well as television producers say they will be hit hard by the new agreement.

'We do not want to deprive the cine workers of their dues or credit for their work. But the steep hike in their wages has put an additional financial burden on us; our existing budgets will go haywire,' Vimal Ranawat, who has made B-grade movies like 'Jawaani' and 'Lootere', told IANS.

Well-known television actress and producer-director Smriti Irani has made her displeasure known to the office-bearers of the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) on the hiked wages.

According to FWICE general secretary Dinesh Chaturvedi, Smriti had hinted that television producers would not be in a position to pay the revised wages to cine workers as TV channels do not pay them enough.

'We have given the producers sufficient time, since the wage hike will be implemented with retrospective effect, starting January 2008,' argued Chaturvedi who is now busy keeping an eagle's eye on the producer bodies to ensure that they implement the MoU.

FWICE after all represents the industry's 147,000-odd protesting cine workers who had struck work Oct 1-3 demanding better wages, lesser working time and timely payments. Four producers associations earlier this month agreed to some of the main demands and signed an agreement with FWICE.

Veteran film and television director Lekh Tandon defended the demands.

'Why should cine workers take home lower salaries because the channels are not paying enough money to the TV programme producers? Why can't the TV producers demand more money from the channels in view of increased production costs?' Tandon asked.

Big banners have taken the wage hike in their stride.

'The settlement reached was a collective decision. So everybody has to abide by it,' producer-director David Dhawan shrugged.

The agreement includes a 7.5-12.5 percent hike in minimum wages for cine workers. Ever since the MoU has been signed, small and mid-level producers as well as directors are worried about the repercussions of escalating production costs.

'Individually, as a director, I may not be directly affected. But my apprehension is that my producers may compromise on quality to balance the revised costing of their projects,' said director Anant Mahadevan who made films like 'Dil Maange More' and 'Aksar'.

Some of the producers are more forthright. One of them, who requested anonymity, said: 'The argument that if the producers can pay millions of rupees to the top stars, why should the cine workers be deprived of their legitimate dues, is not based on a factual position. How many of us can actually afford to shell out millions for the stars?'

According to him, only four percent of resourceful producers and entertainment corporate entities can hire the services of the top stars with prohibitive price tags. The remaining 96 percent make medium and low budget movies and therefore the revised wages would come as an extra burden in these times of financial crises.

However, Himanshu Bhatt, another FWICE office-bearer who is also general secretary of the Cine Singers' Association, said: 'Most of those who are making films now are in the industry only to make hay while the sun shines.'

Bhatt pointed out that since producers cannot argue over the salaries of stars, they try to cut corners with the wages of cine workers.

'This happens primarily because their film budgets do not take into account the wages to be paid to the cine workers. When the productions go on the floor, the first favourite targets are the poor cine workers. It's as simple as that,' Bhatt explained.

He pointed out that though the stars are also categorised as 'cine workers', the pay disparity vis-a-vis the other workers is grotesque.

For example, while a star like John Abraham gets Rs.50 million per movie, the minimum wage of a screenplay writer of an A-grade movie is only Rs.300,000. They have asked for a Rs.40,000 hike.

Similarly, a director contracted to make a TV series with a budget of Rs.10 million gets a Rs.550,000. His demand was to hike this fee to Rs.600,000.

'I strongly feel these demands are absolutely justified,' asserted Prakash (Pappu) Varma, a former FWICE president.

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John Abraham Thumbnail

John Abraham

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David Dhawan

Ananth Mahadevan Thumbnail

Ananth Mahadevan

Lekh Tandon Thumbnail

Lekh Tandon

Smriti Zubin Irani Thumbnail

Smriti Zubin Irani

Himanshu Bhatt Thumbnail

Himanshu Bhatt

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