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#Voices: Surekha Sikri Says Barring Senior Actors From Shooting In The Pandemic Is Unfair. Other Actors Agree

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It feels like yesterday when we were laughing at memes about this new-found coronavirus that wreaked havoc in China in early February. Cut to today, it’s been what five months now that we ourselves have been fighting (or trying our best to fight) this uninvited evil virus and those memes are not so funny anymore. It’s been said before but I will say it again—it is officially the shittiest year in the history of shitty years.

Since the situation in India is pretty bad, the government has imposed certain rules and regulations in the wake of the current global crisis to ensure the safety of the citizens. You know it, the usual restrictions to avoid social gatherings that may lead to possible spread of the deadly disease. The fraction of population that’s more prone to contracting the virus (and not making it) like children and senior citizens has been asked to take extra precautions.

This is why I am deeply concerned about my parents. While I am safely working from home (and still shit scared for my life), I see my dad going off to work every single day. Is my fear irrational? No! But can I stop my dad from working? Well, I tried and he obliged the first few months but he won the argument saying he couldn’t sit at home all year. And, he is hardly alone.

Recently, the Maharashtra Government issued an advisory stating that anyone above the age of 65 is barred from shoots or any shooting-related work. The Bombay High Court directed the order in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it is a precautionary measure to keep the senior actors safe from the potential threat but the actors in question aren’t on board.

Also Read: Shilpa Shetty Says She Doesn’t Mind Delaying Her Movies Until 2021, Health Is More Important Than Her Bollywood Comeback. That’s Sensible

75-year-old actor Surekha Sikri, who you may know from TV shows like Balika Vadhu and movie Badhaai Ho, said it is unfair and violates her right to work and earn for her family. In an interview with Telly Chakkar, she said, “It’s a very unfair decision. They haven’t given a thought to practical thoughts. Since this lockdown has started I have not been able to work for many months. Due to which I am unable to generate any income for myself or my family. As a result of this, there is a complete stop on all my shooting. There were offers and people wanted to shoot with me but I couldn’t give my time or confirm them anything.”

She also said that the decision cancels her efforts to being aatmanirbhar. “I want to stick with my own platform. And this rule is making it impossible for me to be Atma Nirbhar. It cancels all my effort to be Atma Nirbhar. It violates my right to work and support my family. My health is all fine and I don’t mind stepping out shooting my projects,” she added.

If you ask me, I kinda agree with her. I understand they are more at risk but we can’t deny the fact that many of these cast and crew members in the film industry could be the only earners in their family and a situation like this really puts them in the financial fix. Ending up jobless with no way to earn could be worse than the pandemic for people. And, who’s to say the young actors are healthy and taking all the safety precautions and maintaining social distancing?

Other senior actors from the industry are of the same opinion as well. ETimes asked Rakesh Roshan what he thought of the advisory from the state government regarding the ban of senior actors from shooting. He said, “I think there should be no discrimination. If a 65 or 65 plus person is fit and fine, then why not? Like everyone else, he/she should get a COVID-19 test done and if the report is negative, he/she should be heartily welcomed.”

Veteran actress Hema Malini also feels that the restriction is unfair. She told ETimes, “There are several people in our industry who are 70 and 80 and they’re absolutely fit. If they are ready to come out and their family members too have given them their consent, I think it is unfair to restrict such elders. It’s a slightly complicated issue no doubt, but what to do? I hear of many families suffering because the senior man in their family is the sole breadwinner.”

Paresh Rawal thinks if the elderly politicians can go out and work, why is only film fraternity is being singled out? He said, “Stopping those who are 65 plus from doing their work is impractical. It is difficult to digest this even with a gulp. Are we stopping doctors? Are we stopping those who are providing us the essentials? Are politicians not stepping out to serve and meeting people? Then why have people from our industry been singled out? By this it means that none from our fraternity should come out of his/her home.”

According to Sikri, there is a bigger and deeper problem in this decision. She said in an interview, “Please look at people who are grievously harmed in the industry by the fact that they have to sit at home just because they have attained a certain age. Why do most men or women work after 65? One of the reasons is definitely money. Take my case. I met with a stroke sometime back and was partially paralysed. My medical expenses amount to Rs 2 lakh per month. Of late, I am not able to pay those bills. My constitutional right to look after my health has been violated. And mind you, I am getting sufficient work. But pray, how can I give out dates to the TV producers when I will not reach the shoot because I am debarred from shooting?”

They do make a fair point. Their life is at stake but so is their livelihood. And, they are not alone. Many are already suffering due to crumbling economy and lack of business and most of them aren’t big celebrities but small vendors who are completely out of business due to lockdown.

But this raises a question, is it right to call this decision impractical and discriminating at a time when the coronavirus cases are  at 14 lac and counting? I mean it is simply a safety measure, isn’t it? What do you think?

Also Read: Bhumi Pednekar Does Her Bit In This Fight Against Coronavirus, Donates Footwear To Migrant Workers.

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