MUMBAI: Exploitation of animals is not something unheard of in the world of showbiz, but efforts are underway in India to streamline a process that is transparent and eradicates the involvement of middlemen in the business.
The Producers Guild Of India (PGI) and Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) have come together to set up an online approval system for the use of animals in films and television shows.
Kulmeet Makkar, CEO of PGI, told IANS: "Animals need to be taken good care of during the shoot and during their performance. The fact is that when in a children's show or film, a child is performing, their parents are always present on the set of the film to look after them and to protect them.
"We want a similar thing for animals and that is why the active involvement of the animal owners is required."
As per the new process, an animal owner can contact a film producer to know the requirement, day of the shoot, intensity and nature of the performance, et al. Once they have the details, the owner can make an application of permission to the AWBI.
Within 48 hours, the owner will get a clearance of pre-shoot permission if all the required documents are submitted. Once the shooting starts within 24 hours, the producer will get a no objection certificate from the Board.
Also, all the animal owners who wish to use their animals for shoots, have to register themselves under AWBI before May 31.
Makkar said that earlier, there was no timeline to get permission from AWBI and so, the animal owners had to wait for long to get a NOC.
"By the time the letter would reach them, producers would suffer because of the shooting would get delayed. Taking advantage of the situation, there was a group of people, you can call them middlemen, would come in and charge money to bring animals.
"Those animal suppliers would not take care of animals because there is no emotional connection they have with the animal, like a parent. The animal suffers that way. Our online process will eliminate the middleman and make the process more transparent," he added.
Pappu Verma, one of the animal owners who has 40 horses at his farmhouse in Shahapur and gives them out for film shoots, said that though the online registration will bring transparency to the system, AWBI must do a background check on all owners on how they are maintaining the animals before giving them permission.
"I maintain all my horses really well because they are like my children. I have love for horses from the age of five when I started riding a horse. I have seen how some animal owners only focus on business and are careless regarding the well-being of animals.
"Therefore, while I appreciate the online registration process by the AWBI and film producers' involvement in it, I would request AWBI members to give a surprise visit to animal owners to check if all the animals are treated well and given a healthy atmosphere," added the 65-year-old, whose horses have been used in films like "Bajirao Mastani" and "Padmaavat".
Do filmmakers really need to use animals as opposed to computer graphics?
"Well, when it comes to tiger, we really have to protect them and that is why we are not allowed to shoot with a tiger in India. When it comes to horses and elephants, we shoot with them when they are well-trained. If the scene is difficult or risky, it makes sense only to go with computer graphics," Makkar said.
Sachin Bangera, Associate Director of Celebrity and Public Relations of PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) India, averred that animals should be kept away from showbiz.
"What PGI and AWBI are forgetting is that it is 2019. Animals are not actors and they never choose to perform in films or shows, and always used through force.
"The film set is confusing and scary for animals, and behind the scenes horses are whipped, elephants are chained and hit with weapons, dogs may be denied food.
"Using animals in films is not only cruel but old fashioned too. When leading filmmakers worldwide are moving towards Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) and animatronics, why are some Indian filmmakers still in archaic times? Animals are not ours to use for entertainment," Bangera told IANS.