Older Bollywood actors barred from work as virus precaution

Amitabh Bachchan
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Updated 04 June 2020

Older Bollywood actors barred from work as virus precaution

  • Maharashtra govt order targets employees aged 65 and above even after lockdown ends

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.

Amitabh Bachchan

“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.”


Malaysia to reinstate pilots once Pakistani licenses OK’d

Updated 07 July 2020

Malaysia to reinstate pilots once Pakistani licenses OK’d

  • 30 percent of pilots grounded including 107 in foreign airlines

KUALA LUMPUR: The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) will reinstate Pakistani pilots as soon as Pakistani authorities verify their permits, an official told Arab News on Monday, after their temporary suspension due to a fake license scandal. 

Pakistan grounded almost 30 percent of its pilots last week after the country’s Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said that they might have falsified their qualifications. 

Pakistan has 860 pilots, 107 of whom work for foreign airlines.

“The CAAM has sent two letters requesting verification from PCAA (Pakistani Civil Aviation Authority) as well as to inform them on the temporary suspension of Pakistani license holders in Malaysia,” Nurilya Anis Rahim, a public relations officer at CAAM, said in an email. 

Rahim added that the pilots’ licenses had been put on hold until further information from the PCAA.

“We are currently still waiting for a response from PCAA. Once an official confirmation has been made, we will reinstate these pilots with immediate effect.”

Captain Chester Voo, CAAM CEO, announced that it would temporarily suspend 20 Pakistani pilots employed with “local operators” such as flying schools, flying clubs and training organizations.

Rahim said that the decision was taken to ensure the safety and security of Malaysia’s civil aviation industry. 

“It is to ensure that all employed pilots in this country hold a valid license and abide by Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Regulation.”

The UK, EU and Vietnam have banned Pakistani pilots and barred Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) operations as well.

One analyst said that Malaysia’s stand was part of its “zero-compromises” approach.

“Malaysia has always taken a conservative stance which includes a zero-compromise on the integrity of certification and qualification of pilots,” Rizal Kamaruzzaman, a Malaysian aviation expert and executive director of Tindakan Strategi, told Arab News.

He added that the joint verification approach was an excellent opportunity for regulators in Pakistan and Malaysia to “clean” the register and weed out all pilots with dubious qualifications. 

“The move by the CAAM will also alert the rest of the airlines and general aviation aircraft to review the technical crew manifest flying into Malaysia and will definitely have a ripple effect on the aviation sector.”

He urged aviation regulators from other countries to learn a lesson from Pakistan.

“The trust and mutual recognition among regulators are a sacred pact to ensure safety for aircraft, pilots, crews, engineers and the main client that are the passengers are not compromised anywhere around the world,” he said.

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