Ahead of FWICE strike, Anjum Rajabali talks of writers’ plight

Mumbai, Oct 2 (IANS) Acclaimed screenwriter Anjum Rajabali, who is supporting the film workers’ strike begining Saturday, says writers’ contracts in the Indian entertainment industry are “unfair, totally one-sided in favour of producers, exploitative, and violate the Copyright Act.”

The FWICE — Federation of Western Indian Cine Employees, the mother-body of the several unions of industry workers — has called for a strike rom Saturday to press for better wages and improved working conditions, as talks with producers have failed to generate a plausible solution.

In an extensive Facebook post on Thursday, Rajabali, who has worked as a screenwriter for films like “Drohkaal”, “Ghulam”, “The Legend of Bhagat Singh” and “Raajneeti”, talked about the writers’ condition in the entertainment industry while taking a dig at the contracts they are forced to sign by producers.

He said that all the workers of the industry, including directors, actors, music directors, cinematographers, all other technicians, junior artistes, screenwriters and lyricists, “were hoping to avoid” the strike, but “unfortunately, in the face of demeaning obduracy, we failed”.

“The vulnerable position and condition of screenwriters in the film industry is no secret. And, the primary reason for that is that writers’ contracts are unfair, are totally one-sided in favour of producers, exploitative, and violate the Copyright Act. Writers’ contracts humiliate the writer,” Rajabali wrote.

He shared that some contracts even state that the writer will return the fees if the producer is unhappy with the work, and that new writers are often paid less than Rs.100,000 for an entire script.

“Even successful writers are paid much less than the worth of their work. This, when film budgets are ballooning rapidly and star salaries have hit the sky,” he added, referring to the multi-crore cinematic treats.

Rajabali pointed out various clauses written in favour of the writers in the Copyright Act which was unanimously passed by parliament in June 2012.

However, he said, none of the writers’ contracts fulfills these clauses because the producers’ “aim is to squeeze costs wherever possible, and writers are soft, unprotected targets”.

The solution to the problem, Rajabali feels, is to go for “collective bargaining”.

“FWICE had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with producers’ bodies to ensure a wage-increase and improved working conditions for workers. But, this was mainly for the physical workers. This year, FWA (Film Writers Association) and other talent-based unions decided that our proposed standard contracts should be included in that collective MoU.”

“The producers’ representatives had agreed that the MoU would be signed by January 2015. But that has not happened. After 14 months of suffering delaying tactics, FWICE was left with no choice but to declare a general strike,” he added.

“All the 23 unions, actors, directors, music directors, every single worker of the film and TV industry, including FWA, are going on strike. All India Cine Employees Confederation is also supporting us.”

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