KARACHI: Heads of major TV networks have said they have resumed, or plan to soon resume, shooting new projects after filming was largely halted in mid-March to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The pandemic has hugely disrupted the entertainment industry worldwide and many popular television shows have had to suspend production.
In Pakistan, too, production of new TV shows was halted around March, and major networks have since shown reruns of old shows or used content that had been shot before the pandemic began.
The shooting of several on-air series, like Sabaat, Meherposh, Kashf and Raaz e Ulfat, was not yet wrapped up when the pandemic hit in March. Similarly, Hum TV’s Ramazan-special series featuring Osman Khalid Butt, Mira Sethi and Youtuber Arslan Naseer did not air because the shoot was incomplete.
Since June, however, heads of major networks say production was slowly resuming with extensive coronavirus testing, daily symptom checks and other safeguards in place to allow actors and crew members to safely return to work.
Sultana Siddiqui, President of Hum TV, told Arab News that given that more people were indoors due to the coronavirus and thus had more time to watch TV, her network was planning to resume production on a smaller scale, with fewer people on set and social distancing measures in place.
Jarjees Seja, the CEO of ARY Digital, said many of the network’s shoots had to be pushed forward because the artists had been infected with the coronavirus.
One such serial was the on-air ‘Mera Dil Mera Dushman,’ whose shooting had to be halted as the lead actor Yasir Nawaz contracted COVID-19. Shooting had resumed since mid June, Seja said, though he admitted that new safety measures would mean slower productions and less TV shows.
“The criteria of planning, production and results would be entirely different from the previous one,” he said.
He declined to give a figure for losses faced by the drama industry or his channel but said ARY’s losses were less than the network had estimated.
Geo Entertainment Managing Director Shadab Tayyab said the network had only resumed 20-25 percent of its shoots, adding that actors were suffering the most.
“The established actors are safe for a while but the emerging actors will be in a difficult situation if they don’t get work for a longer period,” he said.
TV One’s Seema Tahir said fresh production had started at a “slow pace” but would pick up properly after August or September with strict coronavirus-related guidelines to ensure the safety of actors and crew.
She said the pandemic would require networks and production houses to undergo a “paradigm shift” in the story lines they pursued, and fewer productions would be the new reality.
“In this new setup, if we have to work with fewer locations and cast, the story lines of present day dramas would become irrelevant,” Tahir said. “If in real life, we will no longer be doing big events like wedding functions, it would be inappropriate to show them in dramas.”