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Maintaining Film City: All is not well

It is not that Dadasaheb Phalke Chitranagari (better known as Film City) does not make enough money like most government bodies or cannot source latest technology to provide a clean and hygienic atmosphere to the film and television units using its locations for shooting. It is also not that it has not been outsourcing the cleaning work. It is just that the administration of the Film City never thought it important to provide services which commensurate with the revenue it earns from film shoots.

According to Vitthal Rathod, Manager-Studios, Film City has 30 toilets and 80 make-up rooms. It has 16 studios and 40 outside locations which are rented out for shooting purposes. Its maintenance is outsourced to G R Associates, which, according to Film City Managing Director Shyam Tagade, is on a notice period for non-performance. The make-up rooms are dirty, have very dirty sheets covering dirty mattresses on iron cots; the mirrors have dirt marks on them; the dusty air-conditioners are covered with cobwebs and the small dressing tables attached to the wall seem they haven’t been touched by a swipe cloth ever in their lives. CIJ saw a lizard roaming freely on the floor of the bathroom of a make-up room.

This most important address most film producers turn to for most of their shoots has debris lying at various places for months on end. It is not surprising to see coal, debris, garbage and stones blocking the pathway to a building or a studio. At many places, slum dwellers residing right next to studios, release all the water (and leftover food) from their household chores on to the open spaces that lead you to studios. Broken, dusty furniture with red ants and cobwebs is rotting in corridors for years.

But then, the blame does not lie just with the administration of the Film City. It lies with the film/TV producers and units using its services too. The unit members, quite often, defecate in the open area, litter the place with plastic cups and leave behind debris after dismantling the sets.

“I had banned plastic cups on my sets,” said filmmaker and television serial producer Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi, who has also been on the Board of Directors of Film City. “I used to get annoyed when people threw tea cups where they stood. The justification has often been that the light boys on work could not move. I told them to use sandbags so that lights could be fixed on them. But then, how many producers would want to carry such a load and spend that extra money when they can get cheap labour?

“Actually, the indifference towards cleanliness in the film fraternity is not restricted to the Film City alone. While shooting in another state for my last film, even the director had to go to a nearby house as there were no toilets provided,” said Dr Dwivedi.

In the Film City too, very often, the crew members, including the director very often, have to relieve themselves behind trees and bushes when they are shooting at outside locations. The make-up vans are of help only to top actors and directors.

Another problem is the maintenance of toilets that film/television units might construct. “They are so filthy that you just cannot use them. People’s (and that includes the actors too) hygiene sense is so poor that after the first day, you just cannot enter these toilets,” said a director. For a government body that charges about Rs24,000 per shift for a small floor space and about Rs one lakh per shift (according to trade practices norms) for big floor areas, money definitely is not a problem. Attitude is.

But then, things seem to be changing for the good. There was a marked change in the Film City’s outlook from when CIJ met MD Shyam Tagade in the beginning of December 2009 to when CIJ spoke with Vitthal Rathod in January 2010. Actions were taken, policies were being framed, a meeting with producers held and a meeting of the Board of Directors was in the offing.

“Changes are taking place in the way we manage things. We have appointed a Chief Supervisor (Pahaniwala) for the outside contractor. We have given a team of three supervisors to him. This team will locate garbage and debris at every location and inform the agency. We have had a meeting with the producers on January 12 and questioned them as to why they were dirtying the surroundings while shooting. They would never do this if they were shooting at a foreign location. Our reputation is being tarnished because of them. We are going to be very stern with the producers,” said Rathod.

The producers are told that they would be penalised Rs500-600 for every offence. “If the producers leave behind garbage on the sets they are not given gate passes. We even told them that we could stop them from shooting if they did not mend their ways,” said MD Shyam Tagade.

Ten-by-ten feet pits are now being dug at every location and producers have to ensure that their units’ garbage goes only in those pits which will be cleared periodically. A mobile toilet set of 10 cubicles has been purchased by the Film City. It is being rented out at Rs250-Rs300 per shift. Two more sets of very good toilets are also coming up and if need be, more mobile toilets will be procured.

Rathod owned up many acts of omissions from the administration’s side. Instead of outsourcing, he felt, in-house cleaning could give better results. “Soon, we will decide on providing good rooms and A-One hotels – perhaps on the lines of five-star hotels. In the first phase of work, we will have about 25 make-up rooms repaired well.” Tagade said, “We are doing a lot. We are widening roads, getting landscaping done and are outsourcing it to an external agency. Policy decision has been taken. Tenders will be floated soon. We will change certain parameters. I can take action against my own staff also. People from the seven slums nearby enter our areas and dirty them. We are now putting a boundary wall.”

Added Rathod: “We have done developmental work of Rs60 crore. There are projects yet to be sanctioned. We are getting two additional studios and toilets built for junior artistes. However, for shooting on outside locations, the producers have to get their own toilets built.” Rathod also admitted that the Film City officials are not familiar with the latest cleaning technology. However, it is time to learn. “We will take help from you.” It was good to notice such a change happening in just about a month. If they really pull up their sleeves, perhaps both the film fraternity and the Film City can claim all is well.

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