Bollywood unions have claimed that Indian crew members are losing work as films are hiring foreigners, many of them illegally.
Is the growing trend of hiring foreigners as artists, technicians etc taking away jobs of their Indian counterparts in the film industry? Well, film union leaders say the threat is real. They also claim many foreigners working in Bollywood don't possess a proper work permit, and that the Mumbai Police seldomly act.
The Indian film industry, like its counterparts in sectors like Information Technology, telecom etc, is increasingly hiring foreign talents in the fields such as cinematography, direction, production, script-writing, and junior artists and dancers. The majority of foreigners are being hired from countries like the UK, Russia, and Uzbekistan to name a few. Unions of film employees and representatives of political parties claim that foreigners are being hired in large numbers as junior actors, make-up artists, hair stylists, dancers, action directors, stuntmen, costume designers, art directors, and technicians in Bollywood.
It may appear as a win-win situation for the film industry and foreigners as the industry gets a variety of talent and the foreigners earn a steady income, but the unions differ. "We all know that Indian film and advertisement industries are ranked first in the world as far as the number of films produced per year is concerned. The annual turnover is pegged at $2.7 billion. Indian cinema is composed of various regional language film industries employing a large number of people.
However, the Indian film industry is now facing a major issue with the foreign crew replacing their Indian counterparts. Many of these foreigners are working illegally in India in violation of visa norms," a union leader said. Why employing foreign crew should not be banned the way Pakistani actors and technicians are not allowed to work in the Indian film industry, he questioned.
Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) chairman Ashok Dubey told PTI they don't permit the hiring of the foreign crew. "The hiring is done by producers. Unfortunately, our people are losing employment opportunities. Almost 90 per cent of foreigners working in the Indian film industry are working illegally without proper work permits," he alleged. He also claimed that producers and coordinators do not entertain discussions on this topic.
"We had complained to Mumbai Police many times about this issue (foreigners working illegally) but they didn't take our complaint seriously and failed to act. I have faced four FIRs (First Information Reports) when I raised these issues for the betterment of our workers. At least three lakhs workers are members of the FWICE in various capacities. We fight for their rights," he said. However, the exact number of foreigners, and their countries of origin, working in Bollywood, Tollywood, and other regional film industries, is not known.
BJP Chitrapat Union president Sandip Ghuge said foreigners working illegally in films and also on OTT (Over The Top) platforms is a big issue. "This is injustice for the Indian crew, including make-up artists and technicians. The majority of foreigners are working on a tourist visa and don't possess a work permit," he said.
Ghuge said the Chitrapat Union had complained to the Foreigners Registration Office (FRRO) and Mumbai Police. He alleged the police didn't initiate action, mainly because many local officials are unaware of the law against illegal foreign artists, and technicians.
"It seems FRRO is very reluctant to act. This should be stopped with the strict implementation of law and strong action should be initiated against the agents and coordinators who support this illegal activity," he demanded.
Mumbai Police officials refused to comment.