India Today|October 05, 2020
With many testing positive for Covid, and elderly actors and crew in the mix, the resumption of work in the entertainment industry has been marked with a shiver of fear
Suhani Singh

Actress Ashalata Wabgaonkar, 79, was shooting Sony Marathi’s mythological daily Aai Majhi Kalubai in Satara, Maharashtra, when she tested positive for Covid along with 20-plus members on the show. While most were home quarantined, Ashalata was admitted to a private hospital. A week later, on September 22, she succumbed to the virus. A dance group called in from Mumbai for a song sequence to be featured in the show is reported to have passed on the virus to the crew. The actress’s demise was a worrying reminder of the dangers the elderly face as they resume work in an atmosphere where even adhering to recommended precautions is proving to be an inadequate shield against the virus.

In July, the Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association (IMPPA) had filed a petition in the Bombay High Court challenging the Maharashtra government’s standard operating procedure barring actors and technicians above the age of 65 to work on sets. “There are so many federation workers above 65 dependent on films for their livelihood. What else can they do?” says T.P. Aggarwal, IMPPA president. “Nobody is forcing them to work, but one can’t stop them from working either.” Aggarwal and actor Pramod Pandey, both 70, won the case after judges S.J. Kathawala and Riyaz Chagla asked the government counsel, advocate Purnima Kantharia, if there was a provision stopping those above 65 from working in any other field, to which Kantharia responded that there wasn’t. Ashalata’s death, says Aggarwal, reiterates the need for added precautions. “You can’t say that she died because she was working.”


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October 05, 2020