How leading film directors are prioritising set safety amid COVID-19?

Ram Madhvani, Vasan Bala, Shakun Batra and Shashanka Ghosh discuss the modalities of shooting in the new normal. RT-PCR tests, skeletal crews, safety bubbles, sanitation tunnels and on-set COVID-19 inspectors have now become mandatory.

How leading film directors are prioritising set safety amid COVID-19?

India produces more films annually than any other country but the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the world’s most prolific film industry in multiple ways. It is now not only dealing with economic setbacks but is struggling to adapt to travel restrictions as well as stringent safety protocols on shooting floors. RT-PCR tests, skeletal crews, safety bubbles, sanitation tunnels and on-set COVID-19 inspectors have now become mandatory and some of the biggest names in the industry are turning to professionals to pandemic proof their sets.

Award-winning director Ram Madhvani who has delivered hits like ‘Neerja’ and more recently ‘Aarya’, turned to Life First, a leading health and safety company, to protect the set of his next film, ‘Dhamaka.’ This Kartik Aaryan starter, set to release later this year was shot in Mumbai’s Powai area and Aditya Gupta, the force behind Life First ensured that the locations and the hotel where we were stationed, were all diligently sanitised. With innovative sanitisation equipment, planned location-specific safety protocols, the team made sure that the cast and crew of 300 people stayed within a bio bubble. When the filming ended, Madhvani was grateful for the seamless 10-day shoot and thanked Aditya "for facilitating a smooth and efficient shoot and for making us all feel safe. I wish you and your team much success."

Filmmaker Shakun Batra, known for films ‘Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu’ and ‘Kapoor & Sons’ is busy completing his next for Dharma Productions. For this yet to be titled film starring Deepika Padukone, Ananya Panday and Siddhant Chaturvedi, Batra also engaged Life First to manage set safety. He says, “Shooting amid a pandemic is challenging and if there is unaddressed anxiety on the set, it impacts the quality of the work. When we started shooting the film, I was unsure if we would be able to manage the entire schedule without a hitch. Life First made every day of the shoot totally anxiety-free. Without Aditya’s seamless planning and his fail-safe sanitation procedures, we couldn't have pulled off the shoot."

Among the directors currently working with Life First are Vasan Bala and Shashanka Ghosh. Vasan who has made clutter-breaking films like ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota’, and ‘Psycho Raman’ in the past is currently in the news for his outstanding short, ‘Spotlight’ in ‘Ray’, a Netflix anthology based on Satyajit Ray’s stories. The ‘Spotlight’ shoot was completed largely in a heritage hotel and also required some degree of crowd management and Vasan says, “A pandemic is no laughing matter but Aditya made sure that all of us, including Harshvarrdhan Kapoor and Radhika Madan, had loads of fun the whole time. The Life First team took care of us and kept us safe at all times.”

Shashanka Ghosh whose last film ‘Veere Di Wedding’ was a big hit, is shooting for his next film, ‘Plan A Plan B’ with Ritesh Deshmukh, for a popular Indian streaming giant. The film’s shoot was also overseen by Life First and Ghosh says, “This entire onset safety regimen was a new experience but as days ticked by, we realised how crucial these protocols are during a pandemic.  I am really grateful that Life First managed to help us through this shoot without a single misstep. Aditya is a film professional too and ensures that his team remains unobtrusive during the shoot.”  

Aditya Gupta, founder & CEO of Life First, understands the intricacies of film shoots, having directed hundreds of commercials and also worked as a freelance assistant director with films like ‘Andhadhun’ to his credit. He says, “During the lockdown last year, I felt compelled to start a health and safety company for film production so that the industry could go back to work with some level of confidence.”  Within months he set up Life First, invented a portable UVC  to quickly sanitise shooting equipment and there was no looking back. “Warm feedback from directors and production crews at the end of each shoot makes me feel that I am on the right path. As an insider, I understand how the industry functions and ensure that a production unit can focus on its work while I take on all the additional safety concerns like creating bio bubbles, disinfecting sets, facilitating regular testing as well as vaccinations,” he added.

Life First has so far overseen the safety of over 40 OTT series, 120 commercials, award ceremonies, as well as films including Excel Entertainment’s next, 'Phone Bhoot', Karan Johar's 'Rocky Rani', among others. “The biggest joy for me is to be able to bring back people to work and to give back to the industry that has given me so much,” concluded Aditya.

MumbaiLive would like to send you latest news updates