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After Radhika Madan’s recent statement on long working hours in the TV industry, we take a look at how the functioning in tellyland has changed over the years

Radhika Madan, who made a transition from television to films, recently spoke about the work culture in the TV industry. In an interview, Radhika, who started her career with the TV show Meri Aashiqui Tumse Hi, which was on air from 2014-16, said that she did 48 hour-shifts and the scripts, too, were never written in advance. She said that a director had once told her that if she wanted to understand a character well, that can be done in a film, but on TV, owing to telecast issues, one can’t focus on the script.
Radhika was slammed by actress Sayantani Ghosh and producer Ekta Kapoor for not being grateful to the TV industry that gave her a break in showbiz. However, the truth is, the working hours in the TV industry have always been hectic. In fact, 10 years ago, they were far more erratic, but in recent times, the conditions have improved considerably. We take a look at how things have changed in the telly industry over the past four decades…

‘Working in the 80s was more relaxed because there was just one channel’


In the 80s, there was only Doordarshan and shows aired just once a week. The actors got ample time to prepare for their scenes and so did the technicians. Veteran actress Sushmita Mukherjee, who became popular as Kitty in Karamchand, which aired in 1985, shares her experience of working at that time.
Sushmita says, “In those days, the work environment was far more relaxed and since it was a weekly show, we used to get a lot of time to rehearse. There were no issues with telecast because we had only one channel — Doordarshan. Later, with more channels and daily soaps taking over, the scenario changed.”
‘Things changed with satellite channels coming in. Ratings became more important’
The early 90s saw the advent of satellite channels, and gradually with more channels coming in, things began to change. Sushmita, who continued to work on TV, recounts, “When satellite channels came in, TV shows became market-driven products. I worked in shows like Kavvyanjali, Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo, Kabhi Saas Kabhi Bahu and Balika Vadhu. We did have long working hours — 12-16 hour shifts — but that was the nature of the beast. I have seen days when we used to sleep on the sets due to long working hours. But it was a question of our bread and butter and we also got to play interesting roles.”

‘Scripts were changed last minute because of the TRP pressure’


(Nausheen Ali Sardar)
Television Rating Point (TRP) became the buzzword in the millennium and hence scripts of shows were constantly altered to boost ratings. This happens to date. Nausheen Ali Sardar, who played the title role in Kkusum (2001), says, “I remember in those days, sometimes we used to wait till midnight for final approvals on the script because it was undergoing changes. Script taaza aa rahi hai is a sentence that has been used since those days, it’s not new.” However, the actress does not blame anyone for this. She says, “I don’t think anyone can be blamed for it because that is the nature of the medium.”

‘If actors are not happy, they should change their profession’


(Binaiferr Kohli)
Echoing the general sentiment of makers, producer Binaiferr Kohli says, “We did have long working hours in the past, but no one put a gun on anyone’s head en then. We don’t work beyond 12 hours now. Things are definitely more organised and better today.
If one is still not happy with things, then they should change their profession. But after doing TV and climbing the ladder, you can’t say TV had long working hours… there is no need to demean the profession. Everyone knows how TV
actors have earned and bought multiple houses, luxurious cars and prospered.”

‘Actors spend a lot of time travelling’


(Aasif Sheikh)
Aasif Sheikh, who has been a part of the telly industry for more than three decades and is currently seen in Bhabi Ji Ghar Par Hai!, says, “Long working hours are a part of the business. Sets are situated in Naigaon and far-off areas, as a result, actors spend a lot of time travelling and don’t have much of a social life. Of course, you earn a lot of money, fame and adulation, which you wouldn’t get in any other medium, but a proper system needs to be in place.”

‘Working conditions have improved now’


(Amit Behl)
In the last few years, the working hours are no longer as hectic as they used to be. Many production houses now have episodes in the bank, so overall, it has become less strenuous for the creative teams. Post pandemic, it has become even better
after Cine And TV Artistes’ Association (CINTAA) stepped in. Amit Behl, actor and General Secretary, CINTAA, says, “During the pandemic, since everyone was working in a bio-bubble, all the associations, producers and broadcasters collectively agreed on the 12-hour work shift. If any actor works for more than 12 hours, then they are paid for the additional number of hours. Gone are the days when people used to sleep on the sets.”

‘Actors need to strike a healthy work-life balance’


(Manav Gohil)
Manav Gohil feels actors themselves need to strike a work-life balance. He says, “Ideally, everyone should get one weekly off, but that doesn’t happen. Cribbing about the medium, though, won’t help. In the last two decades, I have made it a point to take my holidays, go to the gym before I reach the set and spend my breaks in my vanity vans doing something that I like. You need to strike a healthy and happy work-life balance yourself.”

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