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Producers and actors divided over CINTAA MoU

MUMBAI: Television entertainment news these days has mainly been dominated by actors shuffling from one show to another and new faces taking over existing characters in daily soaps. So, while Karan Singh Grover quit Zee TV’s ‘Qubool Hai’ and was soon replaced by Raqesh Vashisht, the situation changed again when Grover came back to the show in his original role.

But all this is about to change, with the Cine & TV Artistes Association (CINTAA) having signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Indian Film and TV Producers’ Council (IIFTPC) this month.

According to the MoU, the lead actors of fiction shows will be bound in a three-year contract with the producers and cannot quit without a prior notice of four months. Moreover, there will also be strict monitoring of the call sheet and an actor will have to sign the ‘in and out’ time. If the actor is found to be late on a regular basis, the producer will have the right to deduct payments.

However, on the flip side, actors will be paid for pilot episodes irrespective of the show going on air and cannot give more than 30 days a month for a schedule. There will also be discipline in terms of payments and producers will have to pay daily conveyance along with annual increments.

Naturally, the MoU has divided the industry into two opposing camps—with producers upholding the MoU and the discipline it intends to introduce, and actors criticising it due to uncalled-for points.

TelevisionPost.com spoke to a few members of the industry to understand the aspects of the MoU.

CINTAA honorary secretary and Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) president Dharmesh Tiwari says, “We are trying to bring in some sort of discipline among unprofessional actors, because of whom producers are suffering along with other members of the unit. If a show shuts down because they leave and the replacement doesn’t work, it’s not only them who face losses, but the unit and producers.”

Dharmesh Tiwari

Dharmesh Tiwari

Tiwari adds that if an artist is coming late every day, they waste the time and resources of multiple people. So to restrict that, there is a need for a system to fine actors for being late. However, they will be let off for a period of five to six days due to issues like traffic.

“We, at CINTAA, are not biased. We have done this for the benefit of the artists. Some stars are not disciplined in their working style. We aim to bring protocol,” Tiwari adds.

However, artists are far from excited about the MoU. They say that it is more a memorandum of rule than a memorandum of understanding as CINTAA is dictating terms rather than developing regulations beneficial to both parties.

Shashank Vyas

Shashank Vyas

Shashank Vyas of ‘Balika Vadhu’ fame states, “When there is understanding there is no need of paperwork. We work in an insecure environment where you never know about the future of a show, so signing a three-year contract is not right. If a producer is ready to pay actors for that period, then it is acceptable, because if the show goes off air after a year, what happens to us then?”

Yet another actor Jay Soni adds, “Producers should not bind actors by a three-year contract. If anyone’s career is progressing, that should not be stopped. If there is an issue, the producer also replaces the actor without prior information and an actor can’t do anything about it. It has to be a two-way MoU.”

Jay Soni

Jay Soni

Even as the actors continue to take issue with the MoU, many producers are of the opinion that it is a good move by the two associations.

‘Veera’ producer Yash Patnaik comments, “It is more tilted towards artists. The practice has been there and I follow it in all my shows, but it has been made more generic now. The MoU aims to strengthen the relation between actors and production houses which can otherwise get very sticky. The MoU only brings more decorum. The artists opposing it are only looking at their benefit and not of the industry.”

Another leading producer, on condition of anonymity, observes that the move is indeed in the positive direction and will help producers bring in a more systematised way of working. He further adds that there is a benefit here for actors too, which they are failing to notice.

Yash Patnaik

Yash Patnaik

In comparison, the contracts of the USA’s Screen Actors Guild (SAG) are more in the favour of artists. During each consecutive 52-week period of their commitments, performers are entitled to a vacation of two consecutive weeks if employed less than five years on a programme. Moreover, for each such week of vacation taken by a performer, the performer is paid guaranteed vacation pay at the performer’s individual performance rate times the average number of performances per week.

Apart from conveyance, as is the case in India, SAG also provides first-class accommodation to artists. It safeguards the interests of the artists as the producer agrees that he will make no contract with any performer at terms less favourable to a performer and make no changes or alterations of those provisions without the written consent of the SAG. All serial contracts must provide a per-episode fee and a guaranteed minimum number of episodes.

This only proves that SAG is more disciplined and follows strict regulations for the benefit of the artists.

But the battle lines are drawn in India as Tiwari states he will not change any clause in the MoU and it is now up to the actors to choose.

“All of them are educated actors. If they don’t want to sign, it’s OK with us, but then they might end up losing a role. So the choice is now theirs. Most actors have reached the media without an understanding of the document. They should approach us if they need any clarification,” he says.

Rupal Tyagi

Rupal Tyagi

However, Roopal Tyagi of ‘Sapne Suhane Ladakpan Ke’ fame maintains, “In every field, there is freedom to quit when you want. Every matter is different and needs to be dealt with individually; it cannot be generalised. We as professional actors give our best for the projects we are associated with.”

Thus, even though some aspects of the MoU, such as annual increments in payment and conveyance charges, work in favour of artists, some aspects like the term of contract appear to go against their interests. While the MoU may help to introduce some protocol, it might end up putting the relation between producers and artists on a sticky wicket.