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Lights, camera, action for Telugu film units

Film units prioritise vaccination as they get ready to resume work after a forced break

On June 14, director Merlapaka Gandhi and his team resumed filming their new Telugu project Maestro, as lockdown restrictions eased in Hyderabad. Director Maruthi’s film starring Santosh Shobhan and actor Vishal’s new film Not a Common Man directed by Saravanan are also on floors. A few more units are expected to follow suit in a week or two. An important criteria to return to work has been to get as many members of the cast and crew — junior artistes, make-up, stunt, and others — vaccinated.

Second wave interruption

The severity of the second wave of COVID-19 has prompted units to urge the cast and crew to strictly adhere to safety measures. In addition to frequent sanitisation, disinfection and mask compliance, visitors will not be allowed and actors will have fewer assistants on set.

Merlapaka Gandhi states that several unit members have taken either the first or both doses of the vaccine: “There was nervousness before we resumed work. We got tested and are following safety protocols. There’s a tendency among a few to lower their masks as the day progresses, but whenever we notice it, we ask them to wear the mask properly.”

Maestro, starring Nithiin, Tamannaah Bhatia and Nabha Natesh, is a remake of the 2018 Hindi thriller Andhadhun. “This story doesn’t involve many actors, so we are able to film with a small crew,” says Gandhi, adding that after the day’s shoot, he retires to his office, not home, to avoid risking the health of his wife and children.

Actor, writer and creative producer Siddhu Jonnalagadda is looking forward to resuming filming Narudi Brathuku Natana from June 25 and says the team has been briefed on safety measures: “The production house is helping unit members get vaccinated. To begin with, we will film my solo scenes. The second wave sent shivers down our spines; learning from that experience, we need to remember not to let our guard down,” he says.

The other films expected to begin shooting later this month include director Vikram Kumar’s Thank You headlined by Naga Chaitanya, director Gunashekhar’s Shaakuntalam starring Samantha Akkineni and the Ravi Teja starrer Khiladi directed by Ramesh Varma. Venkatesh and Varun Tej starrer F3 directed by Anil Ravipudi and S S Rajamouli’s RRR starring NTR and Ram Charan are among the other units expected to begin shooting from July 1.

Leading producer D Sureshbabu says it’s also important to ensure vaccination to those involved in post-production facilities, and the support staff in studios and homes. He also cautions, “It’s tough to keep vigil at all times; it boils down to personal discipline. Many are eager to return to work and normalcy. However, it’s a question of life Vs. livelihood. I hope everyone prioritises safety, avoid dining together and hanging out in groups.”

Theatre opening awaited

Production houses are also waiting for theatres to reopen, to begin scheduling film release dates. But how safe will it be to return to cinema halls? In Telangana, when they opened between mid-December 2020 and mid-April 2021, viewers doing away with masks once they cross the security check became a common sight.

Many in the film industry concede that they and their family members hesitated to enter movie halls. However, film promotions and releases continued till the second wave began to peak.

This time around, producers state that stricter vigil may be warranted when theatres reopen.

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