COVID-19 has dealt a serious blow to popular actor Afzal Sharif's livelihood and he is now struggling to make ends meet. He has been out of work for over two months after the government-imposed shutdown and is now facing serious economic hardship.
In an emotion-choked voice that struggled to overcome the feeling of hesitation, the actor, who earned his reputation by acting instinctively to provide comic relief while cast in supporting characters in TV dramas and films, said that he had no earning since March and was struggling to maintain a five-member family.
‘I spent my savings for my treatment and during the time I got grants from the prime minister. But, there is no support when I am almost in starving during the shutdown,’ said that actor.
Bangladesh Film Actors’ Association general secretary Zayed Khan said that over 300 out of 500 actors and over 1,500 assistant directors, cinematographers, makeup man and other technical crews associated with the film industry have fallen on bad times after becoming jobless since the emergence of COVID-19.
‘The producers, production houses, cinema owners and their workers would also suffer as no film would be released this Eid despite six films were ready for release,’ said Zayed, adding that the association demanded grants from the government for actors and technical crews.
Federation of Television Professionals Organisation president Mamunur Rashid said that actors and crews of film and TV-based entertainment in Bangladesh work on a day-to-day basis.
‘We demanded special grants for an estimated 5,000 actors and crews involved with TV-based entertainment business from information minister Hasan Mahmud on March 22 while deciding to suspend shooting of teleplays and drama series for coronavirus,’ Mamun said.
‘But, we have not yet got support despite pursuing the minister on several occasions and even applying to the prime minister,’ he said, adding that the solvent actors were providing aid to the victim actors and crews.
Being jobless for two months, 450 out of 1200 members of Bangladesh Actors’ Equity, a platform of actors of the TV productions, became relief seekers, the equity president Shahiduzzaman Selim said.
The immediate victims were those actors who earned less than Tk 40,000 per month for working from 07:00am to 11:00pm for 25-plus days in a month, he said adding that the solvent actors were trying to help such actors.
‘Most of the actors these days are paid like day labourers after the drastic fall of production cost of teleplays and drama series,’ he said.
For such sorry state of the actors and crews, Selim blamed the government, TV channel owners and sponsors, who did not provide the necessary supportto TV-based entertainment to grow like an industry.
The trade slump in TV-entertainment business further deteriorated after the coronavirus outbreak for which the industry counted a loss of an estimated Tk 250 crore, said president of Television Programme Producers Association of Bangladesh Iresh Zaker.
‘We calculated the cost of over 500 teleplays and entertainment programmes usually aired as Eid special TV programmes,’ he said.
‘We don’t know what happens if the situation continues like this,’ he said.
Channel-i director Shykh Seraj said that he did not see any immediate solution to the prolonged problem prevailing in the entertainment business that deteriorated further after the coronavirus outbreak.
‘The problem began through allowing so many TV channels to operate without assessing the advertisement market size. The small advertisement market size was further cut allowing foreign TV channels to air cheap entertainment contents for local viewers,’ he said.
Shammilita Sanskritik Jote president Ghulam Quddus said that they demanded Tk 50 crore for an estimated 11,500 cultural activists across the country who were going through economic hardship.
State minister for cultural affairs KM Khalid said that Tk 2.5 crore had been disbursed last week for distributing to each of the 5,000 cultural activists across the country Tk 5,000.
‘Such humanitarian support would continue if requires,’ he said.
Information secretary Kamrun Nahar said that the ministry was working to help actors and crews of film and TV entertainment industry.
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