“All shoots are off!” Dinesh Chaturvedi, Head of the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) which controls over 20 unions representing Bollywood workers, declared today when announcing the biggest strike to hit Bollywood in 50 years.
The indefinite protest, reminiscent of the recent Hollywood Writers’ strike, is about low wages, late payments and the persistent use of non-union actors. Although Indian cinema owners often revolt against perceived high cinema entertainment tax slapped onto admission prices, this is possibly the first time in Bollywood’s history that its workers have stopped work en masse. Chaturvedi added: “It’s within our rights to ask for better pay. A film worker gets 600 rupees (about £8) a day. The least the producers can do is pay them on time.”
Consequently, over 140,000 film workers failed to turn up for work on Wednesday 1 October. Bollywood A-listers, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan, did not attend any shooting in possible solidarity as “all the top actors” are FWICE members. The result was that Bollywood came to a standstill: over 40 shoots cancelled; the major studios were deserted.
The post-Diwali release (October 28) of major films like Abhishek Bachchan’s ‘Dostana’, Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’ and Aamir Khan’s ‘Ghajini’ looks likely to be in jeopardy. This could result in huge losses during this lucrative festive period. Ratan Jain, President of the Association of Motion Picture and TV Programme Producers, said: “The walk out was not in the interests of the industry as a whole.”