— Jasmeen Dugal
It happened so fast. Within days, rumours became fact and anxiety grew into fear. Life changed in ways none of us could have perceived. The devastating effects of the outbreak of global pandemic coronavirus was like watching the domino effect, LIVE. All industries ground to a halt. As did fashion and films, which went from full speed to standstill. The news gutted models and actors who had left home to make a living in Mumbai, some struggling, others doing well; all paying a steep rent. The lockdown and cancellation of shoots, filming and fashion weeks dealt a severe blow, even if the impact isn't as visible. It has left them unmoored. How do they make ends meet? Do they give up their flat and go back, do they pay rent with diminishing savings or is there a humane solution where landlords decrease or waive rent for some time? Here is what models and actors are going through day after day —:
SUCHETA SHARMA JAMES — ''Jas, the situation is so peculiar because I, for one, am in the same soup. While I feel it is unfair on landlords to not get their rent since everyone has expenses planned with each month's income, it indeed is a challenge for us to pay rent when we are not working and earning money! If all talents leave for their native town, landlords aren't going to get rent anyway… so it's a moral dilemma. One has no intentions to not pay, but how, is a big worry!''
DIANDRA SOARES — ''Whether it's phone bills, credit card bills, household helpers' salaries, electricity bills… life is moving on. It's not stopping for lockdown. On one hand, if we say rent should be waived, on the other, how do those people survive who depend on each month's rent? It's a vicious circle…. there is much to think about. I guess the fashion and entertainment business will be hit and work will suffer. Maybe it's best that models and actors go back to their hometown, their families, just for the lockdown period. At least they will be with loved ones and not fall prey to anxiety, restlessness or depression. Difficult to say what should or shouldn't happen during these times… because it's not something we have faced before.''
HIMANSHU CHHABRA — ''As we face global pandemic corona, all freelance models and actors are out of a job and living in rental properties where rent is due each month. In a expensive city like Mumbai, rent is no less than a family's complete expenditure. Moreover, many of us are not even living in the rented apartments as we are stuck in our hometown due to the lockdown. I appeal to the government to please take some decision for freelance models and actors, as we cannot pay rent without work. It's time for our landlords too to support their tenants by not taking rent for a month or two… they need to understand that it's really hard for us to survive without work.''
NAMRATA SHETTY — ''Models, backstage managers, hair and makeup artists, actors [some, still waiting for that big break] are experiencing stress, depression and the burden of impending rent. Being a model, I know a lot of shows and shoots have been postponed or cancelled due to the global pandemic. Resulting in loss of income… but expenses still have to be met. I am predominantly talking about fashion. I am worried about how the post lockdown period is going to treat us. Firstly I understand there are senior citizens who rely on rent as income. But shouldn't the government take responsibility of its citizens during such a challenging time? Secondly, people like us have left our hometown to earn a living and support our families. Particularly parents who are growing old. I want to stress here that in fashion we need 150- 200 people to put up a show, and looking at the current social distancing, I don't think the government is going to approve of such a gathering, post lockdown. Which won't kickstart our work cycle. We may be without work till June or July. By then we hit monsoon which is off-season. So I don't see anything concrete happening till October. Paying our rent late or deduction from the security deposit is no solution. It comes down to losing money while there is no work. I appeal to the authorities to look into this matter of grave concern [for lacs of people who will suffer for months] and come up with a solution benefiting both home owners and tenants, enforcing a law and not a guideline or request.''
ACHLA SACHDEV — ''At this point a lot of poorer people have to be dealt with first, particularly daily wage workers and there are too many of those in our country. The film industry, being rich, is taking care of their people as is the FDCI of designers and small businesses. Once we all have food to eat then, yes, this can be looked into. I do not think landlords will waive rent but at least they should bring it to half during these tough times so that both parties stand to benefit. Landlords should definitely consider changes in the contracts or agreement. That said, returning home for a few months till the fashion and film industry picks up is a good option as I do not see any work happening for a few months and we dont know if lockdown will be increased.''
SHEELA TIRUCHI — ''Covid has hit every industry but the first thing that people will stop putting money in is the movie and entertainment industry, which are jobs that require people coming together and may not be essential for a client who's business is something else. I'm a model and I have an events' business, so it scares me. Fashion events, movie premieres, restaurant openings won't take place for a long time because this is the exact opposite of social distancing, which also means that we won't be working for at least three months from the time the lockdown will ease. I feel it's going to be staggered, maybe the first thing that was shut will open last. This is a business that will only run when we work, and without that, many of us won't be able to afford high rents in Mumbai over a long period, let alone take care of our other essentials. We do need help and we need it soon.''
SHAKIR SHAIKH — ''Keeping the global pandemic and lockdown in mind, and the current scenario where models and actors are surviving hand to mouth because Mumbai is a very expensive city. But, we also have to take into consideration that in Mumbai homeowners are mostly old people who live on the money from the rent. So, calling on the government to waive off the entire rent is practically not a good idea. Yes, homeowners must consider a discounted rate and this also depends from individual to individual. A lot of people will want to take advantage of the situation in unwanted ways and maybe the economy will collapse and people will survive on the rent. So, looking at both viewpoints, homeowners must come up with a solution of minimum rent so that sen they survive and can meet basic expenses. Yes, the government should definitely interfere and form a body to resolve the situation immediately as I dont see the lockdown getting over any time soon…''
REHAN SHAH — ''I'm coping up with the quarantine… waiting and praying for all this to get better. Where work is concerned, the fashion industry is going to suffer a lot since people will take time to get back to shopping and spending money like they used to; the economy has been hit. Also, people will not immediately hire models and actors for branding since everyone is experiencing a money crunch right now. A part of the fraternity, as stylist and show choreographer, I would completely support rent being waived for a few months since it will be a big relief. We can save that money to get back to work, to survive. Thank you for taking up this initiative!''
MAYANK MALIK — ''Actors work as freelance artists and our pay cheques appear in about ninety days. A lockdown like this makes it all the more difficult because we are already awaiting the past three months payments and following up with production houses; they have only one excuse for delayed payments and that is the lockdown. I have to collect over 1.5 lacs. Next, as we work project to project, it is a dismal situation; since the past almost twenty days we are at home without work as there is no possibility to work from home in the case of actors. So we have zero income this month — how do we manage our expenses in a city as expensive as Mumbai? RENT is making it more difficult!''
ADITYA SINGH RAJPUT — ''As an actor, I have a job which rolls every month, with shoots and collaborations on Instagram. Since everything is locked up and deliveries, shoots, communicating has stopped because of this global pandemic, economy is crashing. The government should pass a bill for no rental till further notice of lockdown as many actors would suffer — and are suffering. It is very sad but it's true for all actors and models. Be it a new or a seasoned model or actor, we not only have rents but EMI of properties we have purchased. A humble request that this situation should be taken seriously as it's global and not personal.''
ANURADHA SHARMA — ''Let me start by thanking you for addressing the plight of young actors and models like us. Due to Covid 19, our industry has come to a halt and their are no means of earning. I feel state governments should set up a fund to try and help us pay our rent and manage basic amenities, in both Mumbai and Delhi, because even if tomorrow the lockdown is lifted, it going to take at least six months for us to get back on track.''
PARI SAHNI — ''The situation is getting worse at by the day and the economy is on toss. Models are not working because the industry is shut. And we have too many things to be paid i.e. rent, electricity bill, monthly ration. And if the lockdown is extended, the industry would remain shut and we wouldn't get work, we wouldn't be able to meet our daily and monthly expense. I would like to request the government and the officials if they can do something to appease this situation. it is a tough time for all of us. Paying the rent later would also be a burden on us because after lockdown too we wouldn't get much work. So it is a humble request to look into this and help us out please.''
KANAK GARG — ''Mumbai is famous as the city of dreams and it isn't entirely untrue because hundreds of thousands move here to make a name and be a part of the coveted entertainment industry. However, what looks all starry on the periphery, has a very ugly side. Models and actors, as much as they are looked up to by the masses, face a lot of financial instability apart from everything else that goes on. As fancy as the profession is, the truth lies in the fact that after having made a choice to live independently and pursue our dreams, most of us are unsure what our next project is going to be. In a regular day setup at least we look forward to stepping out and giving auditions and believing that we'll get a job in the near future. But in the current situation it's difficult to survive as an artist. We do not know when castings and shoots will resume, we can't say when our next income will fill our pockets, most of us are already awaiting pending payments from our previous projects and we are in no position to pay the ridiculously steep rents and manage day to day expenses. If somehow there's a united stand taken by the government or individual landlords to waive rents, it would take a huge load off aspiring artists.''
VIJAYA DEY — ''Since the Covid19 outbreak in India and subsequent lockdown, source of income has dried up for the fashion and film industry. The outbreak is spreading quickly so lockdown and social distancing should continue for a longer period and there is no guaranteed work for us until a solution for this pandemic is proposed due to which most of us will face major financial ramifications. I know every industry is suffering equally and our plight looks small compared to the poorest of the poor, but being a part of this fraternity, I want to appeal to the government to kindly help us with a plan and include us in few of the exemptions so we can safeguard our lives and livelihood.''
CANDY BRAR — ''Models and actors earning is not consistent. Work is unpredictable and in times like this the money flow is completely blocked because work is on hold. Paying rent and sustaining our livelihood is definitely a challenge as Mumbai is an expensive city. Some people might have savings but with the way things are going it seems the lockdown is going to last much longer which would lead to a long period of no work and scarcity of funds which is a huge worry.''
REHAN — ''Jas, actually this is the worst situation I have faced in my career as a model. My landlord is asking for rent and none of the clients are clearing pending payments. Every single assignment has been postponed. I literally don't have an option and am clueless what I should do. It's not like I can go find another job tomorrow. There are no jobs.''
ALWIN PATEL — ''I live in Versova village, Mumbai. Here the gaaonwale are not accepting any explanation from us about our plight. They are demanding and taking rent. As a model and actor, if I don't work, I don't get paid so how can I pay rent and meet essential expenses? It's a major issue. I'm not prepared for this. I’m in a situation where I’m not going to be making money in the near future, and I'm very worried. My savings are getting smaller day after day…''
My viewpoint? Unfortunately, it is a holding pattern until the worldwide pandemic subsides but I do know one thing: we will get past this. The tide will turn—it always does. Pretty soon, I will be back at work closing deals and critiquing shows at fashion weeks; you will be starring in the next show, campaign or blockbuster. Until then, I appeal to the government to pass a law to halve or waive models and actors rent for six months. Help these lacs of young men and women who came to Mumbai, the financial capital of India, to earn a living and support their families back home… don't let the hope in their eyes, diminish.