TV Actors: Overworked & Overstressed

In one of our earlier posts we had mentioned how our Bollywood actors were putting in long working hours, but most of them do have a choice to slow down. However, in the case of our television actors, it seems they do not have much choice in the matter and have to sweat it out by putting in long working hours.

In the last few years, Television has become quite big, so much that even the big Bollywood stars want to be a part of it. But then, working in television can also be stressful and extremely exhausting, even though it pays you well. There have been several instances where the actors have collapsed on the sets, due to fatigue. And on several other occasions, actors have continued shooting with high fever and almost on the verge of collapsing.

The pressure on lead actors is more especially, compared to the supporting actors, because they’re shown on almost every other frame. Popular television celebrity ‘Sakshi Tanvar’ (Parvati of ‘Kahanii Ghar Ghar Ki’) had fainted at the airport while traveling, because of fatigue after shooting for a long session.

Its the Nature of the Job

Many in the industry feel that part of the problem is because certain things cannot be compromised. The plot develops on a regular basis, there are daily timelines, the tapes have to be on time, and so on.

So many times, the actors comfort takes a backseat! In extreme cases, the producers do take a call to wind up the shoot early, if the actors are really not well, but such things seem to be an exception.

In many cases, the producers chose to carry on. An established actor may quit their shows because of that reason, but most others chose to continue.

Most are unsure how this issue can be sorted out and most seem to have come to terms with that aspect of the work culture in the Indian television industry.

What About Labour Laws?

There are some TV actors who want to know why are they forced to work for 80-85 hours in a week when the country’s labour law allows you to work for 45 hours a week.

Well, the fact is that Labour law related to working hours applies to occupations like Drivers, some skilled and most unskilled labourers, but not to other professions and that include TV actors too. Besides the TV actors and producers are bound by a contract; they are not like the typical companies that hire employees.

and because the contracts are personal in nature, if any actor feels they’re being exploited and want to take matters to court, they can always do that under the civil law, and not labour law.

Daily Production Makes it Difficult

Because most producers churn out episodes daily, writing, shooting and other creative aspects happen simultaneously, which give rise to issues that have to be handled the same day. Daily production makes it difficult to adhere to timelines.

Retakes, various camera angles and other technical aspects also take up a lot of time.

But the industry functions on the mantra ‘the show must go on’, and so most actors don’t have any choice but to go by the flow.

Lack of Script Bank

Many feel that having a strong script bank can make life easier for everybody, as they all can work to a plan. However, even that is easier said that done.

Despite having approved (by the channel) tracks/scripts, depending on the TRPs that the current track is generating, the team may have to change tracks to garner better TRPs. It means, things again go in a mess, where everybody is trying to change things under tight schedules.

Another example is when the channel decides to have a Maha-episode (lengthier episode) that is to be aired over the weekend. If its not a planned one, its likely to exhaust your entire bank of episodes. It again means long working hours for everybody involved on the sets!

Things Are Changing for the Better

Almost everybody agrees that the situation was really back until some time back, when CINTAA (Cine and TV stars Association) decided to intervene.

Earlier, there were instances when actors have shot for 30 hours at a stretch. But after CINTAA passed a rule stating that no TV actor will work for more than 12 hours a day, the situation is much better. Even the contracts now state that actors have to put in 12 hours of work every day; but they also add that if they work extra, they will be compensated for that extra time (paid overtime).

But I think the various laws & contracts (in any industry) can only provide a framework. After all, the amount of work an actor puts in is also governed by his/her aspirations and even insecurities.