Why would practicing actors, performers who are busy, actors who get what they want, actors who have achieved a certain amount of success in terms of name, fame, money, want to enter into a platform like CINTAA? Reason… we feel for our brethren, we take care of those who may not be doing so well. We feel fortunate that we have been given the responsibility to do the same. Our work has been appreciated by all quarters. We bring the fraternity together and provide necessary support as & when needed.
There is a need for the globally relevant Indian actor to be recognized, and who better to do so than their own Union, that is the Cine and TV Artistes Association (CINTAA).
First of all, the International Federation of Actors (FIA) is a body that has been existent since 1952. They have been trying to reach out to the Indian performer community for a very long time. I don’t know what the reason was, but CINTAA was not able to do an alliance with them because they have a representation in 83 countries. Their strongest affiliation is the SAG – AFTRA (Screen Actors’ Guild) and the American Fellowship of Television and Radio Artistes which is the biggest voice of performers in America, Actors Equity England, Actors Equity USA, AFTRA Canada, Actors Equity Canada, Australia and all the performers’ union all over the world.
It was in the year 2015 when Sushant Singh became the General Secretary, (late) Om Puri became the President, Manoj Joshi became the Vice-President, I became the Joint Secretary and Darshan Jariwala became the Treasurer, we had the first round of meetings with Dominick Lackquer, the General Secretary of the Federation of International Actors, Sushant struck a chord with Dominick and we decided to start a dialogue. This was also followed by a long meeting with Uni-mei, part of Uniglobal- which is world’s biggest representation of workers, performers and technicians working in the media and entertainment sector world over and this is a direct affiliate of the International Labour Organization headed by Philip Jennings. So the dialogues continued, and we started updating them with our activities. Dominick visited the office here and had a long meeting with Sushant and me. We did a Health and Safety Seminar and also addressed various issues in 2015. Sushant and I were to attend the 21st Convention in Sao Paulo. Sushant was stuck up with some legal cases that CINTAA was following up in Delhi at that point of time. So I went and represented CINTAA.
The idea behind this visit was that to find a solution to why India, which is the biggest churner of content in terms of television, internet and cinema, is not able to have any International representation, even when we have lot of performers who have been working internationally. People like the late Om Puri, Dalip Tahil, Ayesha Dharker, Irrfan Khan, Anil Kapoor, Gulshan Grover, Tannishta Chatterjee, Ali Fazal, Darshan Jariwala, Sushant Singh, Victor Banerjee, myself have contributed a lot internationally. They have a very different notion that Bollywood per se is all about great locations, heavily made-up dance sequence and dream sequences. But the truth was that the plight of the Indian performer had to be addressed to the International community. And since there are lot of multi-nationals working over here, certain double standards were being followed. So Sushant and I were bit concerned about it and we wanted to tell the world that we needed to follow the law of the land. If a company / production house / studio follows a certain rule in its parent country, the same rule should be followed in our country also. Apart from that, the appalling conditions of the studios, the health and sanitation and the different kinds of exploitations that our performers are facing on all ends, needs to be addressed. And let’s accept it, this is the state of performers world-wide. Also, we realized that CINTAA is the foremost association of performers of the country. Having had greats like Mr. Amitabh Bachchan, Late Prithviraj Kapoor, Durga Khote, Amrishji, Asha Parekh who have been pioneers, the question is why is it that we do not have an International representation? Why is that we need to start fighting with studio / broadcasters and producers for every small thing? Why can’t we have a healthy debate and dialogue to raise our concerns? Why can’t all the stake holders come and sign a MoU so that there is a healthy ecosystem? At the end of the day, without the studio, without the broadcaster, without the producer, the performer is nothing. Likewise, without the performer, a film project or a TV project, theatre project, short film or a web-series cannot be completed. We need to understand the need for each other. It has to be a healthy co-existence. And unfortunately, the lack of education or the lack of awareness in India is really playing on our minds. We were also feeling like the babies in a fish pond and slowly understood the mechanics of the working.
The point is that we are no longer part of any federation or association or union which is going to muscle their way through and stall shootings, take kick bags or bribes. We want shootings to go on smoothly. We just want our performers, our actors to get the required respect in the creative environment. I think the producers have been very proactive over the entire thing. We are touching on health, safety, sanitation, working hours, shooting conditions, stress management. We are trying to take care of welfare activities, trying to speak to all kinds of agencies, hospitals, state and central government, insurance companies to get a pension fund, a mediclaim, to get some kind of stake in the intellectual property rights that exists world over. Also work is on to get the ‘begin and end’ credits for performers which used to happen in TV earlier, which does not happen any further. Also, talk has been happening with the broadcasters to create a bank of episodes so that the stress level is much lesser. We are also trying to educate our young actors who suddenly see stardom when the show is on air. But when the show goes off air, they tend to go through the crazy sense of oblivion of not being wanted. So they should know how to handle success and failure at the same time. They should also know the importance of patience as a performer. These are various issues that we are trying to address. So we are trying to slowly explain at the International level, as to how the Indian TV and film industry works.
At Sao Paulo, I made two presentations to the English language group and to the world group on the duality of multi nationals working in the Indian Media and Entertainment Sector on the appalling health and safety conditions of the Indian Film Studios, and also explained to them about how the Indian Film and TV industry works with whatever experience I have had in these 25 years of career in all the mediums. It was greatly appreciated. We have been fortunate that the broadcasters and the producers have been very proactive with this new committee in CINTAA. Fortunately, we have had a healthy dialogue. Yes, there are bad ‘apples’ in every basket. So when you say that there are bad studio owners, bad producers and bad broadcasters, there are good ones also. So same is the case and we have bad actors also. There are people who misuse the moral strength of CINTAA, or the name of CINTAA which has certain credibility in the market.
Now with the current committee, with Mr. Vikram Gokhale being the President, Sushant Singh as the Gen Secretary, Darshan Jariwala being the Vice-President, Manoj Joshi being the Senior Vice-President, I being the Senior Joint Secretary, Rajeshwari Sachdev being the Joint Secretary, actors like Ayub Khan, Romit Raj, Neelu Kohli, Payal Nair, Suneel Sinha, Ravi Jhankar, we have been people working on TV, theatre, internet, short films, films and International projects. So gradually and steadily, people have realized that CINTAA as an organization is primarily here for the well-being of the Indian performer, of the Indian actor, especially focusing on the sector of people working on the Hindi bracket. The South associations, as we know, have their own set of rules. Same goes with the Bengal association. But we now have a dialogue with all the acting associations of the country. We are also helping the South African Guild of Actors (SAGA) (where there a lot of second and third generation Indians working), in their fight against sexual exploitation at their work place. We are also part of FIA’s Global Diversity Group. The world is now becoming a globally smaller place because of the internet, GPS, because of cross-over films happening, with people coming and shooting here, and we going and shooting outside. The Global Diversity Group will primarily focus on issues that are related to all the performers in the world.
What does an artist actually look for? He looks for his / her money being received regularly. He looks to work in a healthy environment and healthy working hours so that he / she can deliver a fresh performance which will eventually be for the well-being of the project. This is because a tired performer or a disgruntled performer or an unhappy performer will directly be reflected on the end project, which people are beginning to understand. Also, the great handshake between producers, directors, DOPs, writers, actors, think-tank of making a TV / film project is very important. Hopefully, this is how we see the whole process developing.
In the age of social media, internet, in the age of the shrinking globe wherein the world is coming closer and India now emerging as a world power in terms of culture, economics, technology, in the field of art and entertainment, we as the foremost Performers’ Union of the country do need to make the voice of the performer, the problems of the performer be heard by all the major stake holders and also understand what is their perspective, so that we can offer a balanced perspective to the entire world of media and entertainment and to the world outside.
The actor, the producer, the director, the cameraman, the words ‘lights, camera, action’ refers to all the people involved in the production wheel. So these are the people who are needed to be addressed to. It’s a symbiotic relationship and for the ecosystem to be healthy and fruitful, we all need to come together and support each other. To end I can say that we all need to address and look at issues at a humane level. Media & entertainment is a powerful medium touching everyone’s life…we need to be more careful, responsible in the way to address things properly. We, at CINTAA, are working to ensure that the world will be a better place to live in and we performers will help in creating a better ambience.
(As told to Srividya Rajesh)