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Producers want young dancers, most CDA members are above 40, says parallel association chief

Gangeshwar Shrivastav, FWICE treasurer and president of the All-India Screen Dancers Association, denies his group is stealing the livelihoods of the recognized association's members.

Gangeshwar Shrivastav

Mayur Lookhar

In September, the executive committee and some members of the Cine Dancers' Association (CDA) had protested against the All-India Screen Dancers Association (AISDA), a parallel body backed by Bharatiya Janata Party legislator Ram Kadam.

CDA members accused the parallel body of stealing their livelihood. What came as a bigger shock to them, however, was that Gangeshwar Shrivastav, treasurer of the Federation of Western India Cine Employees, apex body of 21 film industry workers' unions, had become president of the parallel body.

FWICE president BN Tiwari advised both the CDA and the AISDA to iron out their differences and unite, giving the unions a couple of months to do so.

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Tiwari also warned that failure to settle their dispute amicably could result in the CDA's affiliation being cancelled.

After several earlier attempts to contact him proved futile, Cinestaan.com recently met Shrivastav, who opened up on the issue.

Asked about the conflict of interest in his position as FWICE office-bearer and president of a rebel group involved in a tussle with a recognized association, he said, "If the CDA does not stand with producers, you need someone to work with them. Once the CDA stars functioning properly, I will resign from the parallel association.”

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Shrivastav denied the AISDA was stealing the livelihoods of CDA members. “The FWICE has never said only CDA members can work in the film industry," he said. "Today there are many new heroes and heroines. They require younger dancers. But the CDA has mostly 40-year-olds. If producers and choreographers need younger dancers who may not be members, we can’t stop them."

He hit out at CDA members for their alleged misconduct during the protests. CDA members had protested outside a ground in Andheri, Mumbai, where a song from Dharma Productions’ Kalank was being shot.

“These people created a ruckus on a few sets, stalled shootings," he said. "They even assaulted a dance coordinator in his office in Mira Road [near Mumbai]. No federation can support such acts. If they accept their mistake and abide by the rules, the federation will support them.”

One of the CDA’s grouses against the parallel body is that it is giving membership to all and sundry. Shrivastav denied this. "The association gives them valid cards, but it never promises work," he said. "A person may be issued a card, but if he/she can’t dance, no coordinator will give him/her any work. If any association says it can get work for its members, that is wrong. They probably take a commission then.”

CDA member Anna D’Silva had pointed out that the cost of membership of the official association runs into a few lakhs of rupees, while AISDA members get their cards for as low as Rs25,000.

Shrivastav, however, slammed the CDA's practice of taking huge sums of money to grant membership. “If they are granting membership by taking Rs3-4 lakh, then it is not legal," he said. "In our [Film Settting and] Allied Mazdoor Union, we take about Rs35,000 for membership, but we also provide benefits. We give a donation of Rs25,000 for a member's daughter’s marriage. We provide support for the child’s education, for medical care. If the CDA is charging Rs4 lakh for membership, what benefits is it offering?”

Asked if the factional feud works to the advantage of producers by letting them rope in non-members at nominal wages, Shrivastav said producers do not want to hire non-CDA members, but nothing prevents them from doing so.

“All I can say is that people who want to work are getting work," he said. "If some people want to act like politicians and mint money, there is no place for such artists.”

CDA members have claimed that they have lost out on as much as 80% of projects after the formation of the parallel body. But Shrivastav denied this and drew attention again to the age factor. “If there is need for a 20-year-old, would any producer hire a 40-plus person just because she is a CDA member?" he argued. "If you are fighting producers on this matter, it is wrong. The federation will not support this.”

CDA members have also claimed that the AISDA is duping producers by charging them standard rates but paying lower wages to their dancers. Anna D’Silva had alleged that AISDA dance coordinators have even hired members for as low as Rs500 a day with coordinators siphoning off the rest.

Shrivastav denied this. “The rates AISDA has fixed with a producer, we are sticking to them," he said. "On the contrary, we have learnt that their [CDA] choreographers are paying less to their dancers. We mostly have young dancers. The feedback we get from producers is positive. Besides, AISDA members are being paid directly by the producers, not through the association.”

Despite the differences, Shrivastav, like the FWICE, said it is best for the two groups to get together and settle the matter. In that eventuality, he said, there would be fresh elections to the executive committee as some groups in the CDA had stayed away from the last one as it was not conducted fairly.

The FWICE treasurer said they were even willing to consider a government-appointed neutral body to carry out free and fair elections.

As of now, however, a rapprochement looks unlikely. CDA president Vijay Singh said no meetings have taken place between the groups and the stalemate continues. "I am confident, however, that the matter will be resolved soon,” he said, without saying how.