Akshay Kumar starring in Airlift in happier times
45 people have tested positive for Covid-19 on the set of archaeological adventure movie Ram Setu, it emerged yesterday, with 53-year-old star Akshay Kumar hospitalised as a precautionary measure. The incident is one of a series which have impacted India's film industry as it has struggled to get back to normal after restrictions began to be lifted at the end of last year.
With big names like Aamir Khan, Bhumika Pednekar and Alia Bhatt also infected recently, the dangers of film shoots are getting a lot of attention and sending a clear message to ordinary Indians that the pandemic is far from over. Rohit Saraf has apparently experienced severe symptoms despite being only 24, though he was still able to get online and warn his fans that they need to take the dangers of the virus seriously.
In Mumbai, where the largest part of the industry is centred, cast and crew must undergo mandatory Covid-19 tests before shooting starts, followed by daily temperature checks, but with a third of infected people now thought to be asymptomatic, the are concerns that this may not be enough. Crew sizes are being kept to a minimum, stars are strongly discouraged from bringing any unnecessary people with them to the set and some productions are using ultraviolet light to try and sterilise equipment, though the jury is still out on the effectiveness of this approach. Perhaps the most visible sign of changing practices, to outsiders, is the dramatic scaling-down of traditional dance numbers as attempts are made to minimise the number of extras on set.
With several of its stars now in hospital or struggling with the symptoms of long Covid, the industry continues to face a challenging time, even though cinema have now reopened in several states and demand for its output is high.