The Mumbai film industry is on de facto lockdown after the local government mandated that all film and TV shoots be paused until at least May 1 due to spiraling Covid-19 cases in the country.
Uddhav Thackeray, Chief Minister of the Maharashtra region, announced the decision on Wednesday evening (April 14). He stopped short of referring to the action as an official ‘lockdown’ but the measures do restrict anyone from being in a public place without a valid reason. Cinemas are also once again closed.
The restrictions have put the blockers on Bollywood, with a string of high-profile productions shuttered temporarily.
Of the numerous shoots currently underway in Mumbai, Deadline has confirmed that Ram Setu, Amazon’s first Indian co-production starring Akshay Kumar and produced by Abundantia Entertainment, has been delayed further by this week’s news. The film had already been put on hiatus after its star and 45 crew members all contracted Covid. Kumar was also hospitalized but was discharged earlier this week and is recovering.
Further high-profile titles understood to have been paused, to name just a few, include the Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone-starrer Pathan; the Boney Kapoor-produced big budget sports pic Maidaan, which already suffered a significant delay last year during the initial lockdown; and the Amitabh Bachchan-starring Goodbye, with that news confirmed by Bachchan on his personal blog. “All work stopped… schedules shall be greatly affected, but [we] shall prevail eventually,” he wrote.
Multiple shoots that were in pre-production have also now been pushed until the situation improves, local producers told Deadline.
This is a blow to the Indian film industry, which has made great strides to ride out the pandemic disruption, adopting numerous measures to try to continue shooting throughout this difficult period. Early in the year, India was held up as an example of remarkable resistance to Covid, with reported cases dropping to around 10,000 per day in early February. As a result, the country’s economy was re-opened, with cinemas returning to full capacity and sports grounds filled with thousands of spectators.
Fortunes have since been reversed, however, and the country’s second wave has proved devastating. More than 200,000 cases are being clocked per day this week, hospitals are full to the brim, and the government has been forced to act strongly to try and stem the tide. A new variant of the virus, B.1.617, has been credited with contributing to the sharp spike in cases and has since been detected internationally including in the UK.
As of now, the hope is that filming will resume on May 1. This timeline looks fairly ambitious – the initial hiatus that began in March last year lasted for six months – but there is confidence on the ground in Mumbai that the production industry can implement safety measures that can mean a return to set sooner rather than later. Even just a new two-week shutdown is being estimated as costing the local film biz tens of millions of dollars. Cinemas, meanwhile, are likely to suffer another difficult stretch until cases get under control.
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