PATNA: A senior citizen clause in a state government notice, barring all Bollywood actors and employees aged 65 and above from working during and after the coronavirus lockdown, has shocked the Indian film industry (IFI).
“Signed declarations should capture their name, age, contact details, blood group, in case of any ailments like diabetes, hypertension, cardiac issues, etc. Any cast / crew members above the age of 65 years will not be allowed at the site,” read the order issued by the Maharashtra government.
The letter provides a step-by-step guideline for Bollywood’s return to shooting once the lockdown is lifted in Maharashtra and the rest of India.
Mumbai, Maharashtra’s capital, is home to the IFI and is the epicenter of the virus in India. Maharashtra’s government says the order was issued “to protect the elderly from the virus.”
In principle, it means that veteran and world-renowned actors such as Amitabh Bachchan, 77, cannot shoot even after the current lockdown ends.
“So many of the most prominent actors and technicians are above 65. Are they supposed to retire mid-assignment?” IFI spokesman Ashok Pandit told Arab News.
“Mr. Bachchan’s film ‘Chehre’ is under production. We all know Mr. Bachchan is going great guns at 77. Is he supposed to sit at home while the rest of the industry returns to work? It’s disgraceful.”
Pandit said age should not be a criterion for the blanket ban, adding: “Music director Wajid Khan, who died due to COVID-19-related complications recently, was just 44.”
The film “Chehre” also stars distinguished Bengali actor Dhritiman Chatterjee, 75, and its legendary cinematographer Binod Pradhan is nearly 80.
Its writer-director Rumy Jaffrey said he is embarrassed and somewhat alarmed by the Maharashtra government’s age-specific embargo.
I’ve never sat down to think about my age. I’ve done my work to the best of my abilities, and will continue to do so.
“I am sure better sense will prevail,” he added. “Bachchan Saab and so many other actors are doing their best work well past 65.”
On Monday, the Indian Film & Television Directors’ Association protested the ban in a letter to Uddhav Thackeray, chief minister of Maharashtra.
Besides Bachchan, the letter lists actors Anupam Kher, Paresh Rawal, Annu Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah, Dharmendra, Shakti Kapoor, Mithun Chakraborty, Pankaj Kapur, Jackie Shroff, Danny Denzongpa, Dalip Tahil, Tinnu Anand, Rakesh Bedi and Kabir Bedi, as well as legendary directors, filmmakers and writers who would be impacted by the ban.
They are “above 65 years and actively working in the industry. This clause is therefore impractical since it would restrict some of the great luminaries of our industry,” read the letter.
Bachchan told Arab News: “I’ve never sat down to think about my age. I’ve done my work to the best of my abilities, and will continue to do so.”
Rawal, who turned 65 last month and is a parliamentarian in the Indian central government, said the age-restricted order is “impractical.”
His most notable works include “Hera Pheri,” “Hungama” and “Sardar Patel,” to name just a few. “It just says it all about the Maharashtra government’s thinking and planning,” he said.
However, not all veteran artists object to the directive. “I think it’s a good move because prevention is better than cure,” senior actor Jeetendra told Arab News.
India’s most celebrated actress Shabana Azmi, 69, also defended the guideline. “It is for the safety of the senior actors because they are at a greater risk,” she said. “Let’s not interpret it as an illustration of ageism.”