Senior actors want to work, but production houses wary of having them on the set

Senior actors, above the age of 60, are in a bind over whether to resume shooting for film and television projects given that older people are more vulnerable to the corona virus. While many are keen to get back to work despite the risk, production houses remain wary as the government advisory states that they should avoid casting children below the age of 10 and senior artists over 60. This has left many people jobless.

Malathishree Mysore, a senior professional theatre actor who works in TV serials and films, has been struggling to make ends meet. “I have been solely dependent on my acting assignments all my life. It has been over three months since I got any work. Though shootings are resuming, production houses are not calling me back. Either we suffer joblessness and hunger or take a health risk and resume working” she said adding the government’s relief package of ₹2,000 did little to ease her financial burden.

“Industry insiders say it may be the end of the year before we get back to work. I don’t know how I will survive that long without work,” she added.

Senior artist V. Manjulamma finds himself in a similar position. “It has been two months since I paid rent as there is no work coming my way,” she said.

While actors like Ms. Manjulamma are aware that the health advisory is for their own safety, they say that the pandemic has robbed them of the means to earn a living with dignity.

Senior film actor H.G. Dattatreya, popularly known as Dattanna, said there is no legal ban on senior citizens taking part in film shoots. “I am ready to go back to work, and I will take all the necessary precautions,” he said. “It is not only about money. For actors, our job is also a way to express ourselves.”


He argued that by barring them, production houses are giving the impression that they are not wanted. “This has affected the psyche of actors. As a law-abiding citizen, I have been mostly indoors during the lockdown. But now, I want to get back to work,” he said.

D.R. Jairaj, chairman, Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, said that the yet-to-be notified guidelines for film shoots, has no ban on senior actors, but has mandated a medical clearance certificate for them to join a shoot.

However, a senior producer admitted that most production houses do want to take the risk of having senior actors on the set. “If anything goes wrong, the producer will be held accountable. In such a scenario, we are not in a position to take on the additional risk of involving senior citizens, who are all more vulnerable to COVID-19, at least for now,” he said.

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Sagar Biswas

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