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Tamil film units to continue shooting despite FEFSI's call for strike

Will the Film Employees Federation of South India's (FEFSI) indefinite strike, which begins today, bring the Tamil film industry to a grinding halt? 

Vishal Krishna and RK Selvamani

Manigandan KR

The Film Employees Federation of South India (FEFSI) which is locked in a grim battle with the Tamil Film Producers' Council (TFPC), over a number of issues, including wages, has called for an indefinite strike from today (1 August) to drive home their point of view.

The wage issue has been a thorn in the relationship between the two powerful bodies of the Tamil film industry for a very long time.

The FEFSI, which is a federation of 24 film craft unions, has placed three primary demands to the TFPC. The first of this pertains to a statement issued by the latter, recently, that they will not work with members of the former. The FEFSI insists that the producers must take back this statement. 

The Federation is also demanding that the TFPC must not reduce the wages that have already been agreed upon and that work can begin only after the producers sign the deal on general rules and practices.

The producers, for their part, say that they have no problems working with FEFSI employees willing to work with them, but then add that the producers also have the right to work with others, outside of FEFSI. They point out that that the Federation cannot insist that film producers only employ members of the FEFSI unions.

Actor and Producer Prakash Raj, who spoke at a recent press conference called by the Producer Council, said, "Some of our statements have been misrepresented. We never said we will not work with FEFSI members. The workers aren't our enemies and our intention is not to inflict financial losses on them. However, we will not accept their condition that we have to work only with them."

Stating the problems producers face, Raj, an office-bearer of the TFPC, said, "Some of the conditions that they insist upon are really unfair. For instance, I am making a film and I had to shoot a sequence in Hyderabad. My hero has a make up artiste who is there with him always. The FEFSI insists that I cannot use the services of that make up artiste. They say that even if I choose to use him, I must still employ a make up artiste from the Union. This means I will have to pay the union make-up artiste his salary, bear his travelling, boarding and lodging expenses in Hyderabad for doing nothing. This apart, I will also have to pay him something called 'double bata'  (which is a huge sum) for just sleeping while travelling from here to there. It is unfair practices like these that we are looking to put a stop to at a time the producers are facing a tough situation. The FEFSI says that this is something that has been in vogue for several decades. We can correct mistakes at any given point in time is what they must understand."

The TFPC does not seem flustered by the FEFSI's call for indefinite strike. They say that work will go on as film units will work with technicians who are willing to work and that there are several such technicians. They have reason to believe so. For, already three unions namely, Cinematography, Choreography and the Stunt Union, which are part of the FEFSI, have decided to go against their parent body by expressing support to the producers council and choosing to work with them even during the strike. 

For now, it looks like the situation has reached a stalemate with both sides not willing to back down. It remains to be seen how the 30 odd film units that are now shooting will manage their schedules with this strike coming into effect from today.