Bollywood to resume shoots but virus rules dull its shine

Bollywood will resume film shoots immediately, industry representatives said Thursday, but strict virus rules banning "elaborate or extravagant" scenes threaten to strip the world's biggest movie-making machine of its trademark dazzle.

The decision by three major industry bodies ends a months-long hiatus following the imposition of a nationwide coronavirus lockdown in India in late March.

Although the government allowed shoots to resume earlier this month, producers, actors and crew have been embroiled in negotiations about the health risks involved.

On Thursday, industry representatives said they had "amicably resolved the outstanding issues (and) paved the way for the immediate resumption of shootings", including the provision of medical and life insurance to all crew members.

But tough restrictions to fight the spread of the virus pose a major challenge to filmmakers, who will not be allowed to film wedding scenes or fight sequences that have long been Bollywood staples.

Furthermore, actors over the age of 65 are banned from being on set -- a rule that would see some of India's most revered stars, such as 77-year-old Amitabh Bachchan, forced to stay home instead.

Social distancing norms will put a stop to scenes showing actors kissing or embracing, spelling a return to the more conservative 1980s, when Bollywood songs often cut to images of flowers brushing against each other -- then a shorthand for romance.

Producers will also be required to have a doctor, nurse and an ambulance on set -- a punishing requirement at a time when Mumbai is already struggling with a shortage of health workers and ambulances.

The 16-page set of guidelines, framed by the Producers Guild of India, also includes a request for actors to do their hair and makeup at home and urges casting directors to locate real-life relatives for family sequences to limit interactions between strangers.

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