Actor Nandu looks quite different in his new bearded look that he has tried during the lockdown days. It was on 10 March that Nandu acted in a movie last. The Malayalam cinema got stalled due to the global pandemic and the subsequent nationwide lockdown. “Though there isn’t any source of income, the usual expenses remain the same,” says the actor. Like Nandu, most people working in the movies are struggling. Though the government has eased the restrictions to resume filming by strictly following the Covid protocols, many are wary about the practicality of it.
“Though workers in other sectors have gradually returned to their jobs, people in the cinema haven’t been able to do that. Many have loans to repay. A noted actress had decided to purchase a brand new car right before the lockdown began. She had to pay a monthly installment of Rs 35,000. There is no income as filming has been stalled. When she got the hints about lockdown, she approached the bank and told that she doesn’t need the vehicle now. However, the bank had already transferred the money to the dealer,” says Nandu.
The actor notes that only 2% in the cinema industry are financially affluent. Another 20% can survive even if their income is stalled. He adds that ordinary artists, technicians, assistants, light boys, mess workers, drivers and junior artists have been struggling due to the lockdown. Nandu admits that he had personally helped a few people. However, now, he too is not in a situation to continue the financial assistance. Nandu says he feels sad when he hears that those who had served food on the sets are now struggling hard.
“AMMA had twice collected money from the affluent members to help those who are less privileged. When the collection was made last time, I called Edavela Babu and told that I had no means to contribute. Then, Babu told me that he had to sell one of his cars due to the financial crunch. None of us expected that we wouldn’t be having income for six months. Even during the pandemic times, I filmed wishes, messages and felicitations on videos for many institutions and organizations. I do my own make up and film using my mobile phone. When the number of such messages went up, I jokingly told a friend that I would charge up to Rs 2500. However, I clarified that I was joking when he asked for my account number and offered to transfer the money,” says Nandu.
Nandu had acted in the short film Oppam which narrates the story of cleaning workers during the times of the pandemic. He didn’t charge a penny for the short film that was shot in Kalamassery. Nandu confesses he understood the real struggle of the cleaning workers when he acted wearing a PPE kit.
The actor also remembers Padmaja, wife of musician MG Radhakrishnan, actors Ravi Vallathol and Anil Murali and location manager Das who passed away during the lockdown period.
Noted still photographer Ramalingam’s wife had died in Chennai after she was diagnosed with COVID-19. Sadly, Ramalingam, who is around 70 years old, couldn’t see his wife one last time. Nandu says that the veteran photographer calls him on most days and cry.
Like most people, Nandu too has been trying his hands in cooking to overcome the lockdown blues. “I cooked Chinese and Italian dishes watching Youtube videos. Besides, I call and comfort the senior citizens who are mentally struggling as they aren’t able to go out of the house. We realize that our problems are nothing when we learn about other people who struggle or suffer more than us,” concludes Nandu.