Bollywood shoots to resume 'immediately' without wedding and fight scenes

Strict rules have been put in place to protect actors and crew

Saif Ali Khan and Shah Rukh Khan in Kal ho naa ho (2003) IMDb

No fight sequences, wedding scenes, kissing or actors over 65 on set, mandatory medics on hand and stars encouraged to do their own hair and make-up. These are just a few of the strict rules put in place, as Bollywood is permitted to resume filming amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Industry representatives announced on Thursday that shoots would resume "immediately", but strict virus rules banning "elaborate or extravagant" scenes threaten to strip the world's biggest movie-making machine of its trademark dazzle.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Devdas (2002) IMDb

The decision by three major industry bodies ends a months-long hiatus following the imposition of a nationwide coronavirus lockdown in India in late March.

Although the government allowed shoots to resume earlier this month, producers, actors and crew have been embroiled in negotiations about the health risks involved.

On Thursday, industry representatives said they had "amicably resolved the outstanding issues [and] paved the way for the immediate resumption of shootings", including the provision of medical and life insurance to all crew members.

But tough restrictions to fight the spread of the virus pose a major challenge to filmmakers, who will not be allowed to film wedding scenes or fight sequences that have long been Bollywood staples.

Furthermore, actors over the age of 65 are banned from being on set – a rule that would see some of India's most revered stars, such as 77-year-old Amitabh Bachchan, forced to stay home instead.

Social distancing norms will put a stop to scenes showing actors kissing or embracing, spelling a return to the more conservative 1980s, when Bollywood songs often cut to images of flowers brushing against each other, then a shorthand for romance.

Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh in Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela 2013. courtesy: IMDb

Producers will also be required to have a doctor, nurse and an ambulance on set, a punishing requirement at a time when Mumbai is already struggling with a shortage of health workers and ambulances.

The 16-page set of guidelines, framed by the Producers Guild of India, also includes a request for actors to do their hair and make-up at home and urges casting directors to locate real-life relatives for family sequences to limit interactions between strangers.

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