It is often said that sport is a great unifier, but in recent times, we have found that something else, in utter contrast to the hope and joy sport fills lives with—a pandemic—has a similar unifying effect. People across the world, borders and language differences be damned, are talking about the same topics: Quarantine, isolation, privilege, gratitude, awareness, healing… Almost all of us are confined to our homes, not knowing how long this lockdown will go on for. The stars of the film industry have it no different either. All the film industries have come to a standstill. Shootings have been stalled, releases delayed, opportunities have been slipping away, with some resigning to catching up on long-pending rest. We catch up with a few to know how they are coping with the lockdown.
Janani Iyer, Actor
My birthday was on March 31. While I usually celebrate with friends by cutting a cake at midnight, this time, due to the lockdown and social distancing, none of this was possible. Instead, my mom made gulab jamuns at home, and I cut it with my family, which, I guess, made my birthday very memorable. Many compare life in Bigg Boss with the current lockdown. Having been at the Bigg Boss house during season 2, I can say it’s very different. More things happen in the Bigg Boss house; I find lockdown at home to be very boring. I’m looking forward to the release of my next film, Vezham, with Ashok Selvan, once the lockdown ends. Meanwhile, I have also been working out and selecting clothes for my online store, Hazel Avenue, to keep myself engaged. What began as fun workouts to keep boredom away have now become more intense. My sister also gives me company.
I always love to spend time with my family. Sneha and I watch a lot of shows together. We are binging on a lot including films that we have missed out on. We just finished Special Ops, and earlier, we were watching She. Also, since I have a gym at home, I work out twice a day. I was following this routine even before the lockdown but I agree that having a target for this period helps as it keeps one focused during this stressful time. We are also planning to cook. I am also glad that I am able to spend more time with my pets. I had plans to start a production house earlier but now, I don’t know how the economy will be, after the pandemic ends.
GV Prakash Kumar, Music Director-Actor
I’ve been spending the quarantine time rejuvenating myself. I have a gym at the basement of my house and this has helped me continue my workout schedule without a break. As I have already finished composing for all my films that are close to a release, I don’t have the trouble of any impending deadlines now. I will resume any other work only after the lockdown. I am using this free period to read a lot and watch films that have always been on my wishlist. I have caught some really good films on OTT like Badhaai Ho, Kumbalangi Nights and Virus.
Barath Neelakantan, director
“Usually, with kids in school and wife at work, I binge watch series as I am mostly home alone.But considering they are all home now, there’s no way to do that now (laughs). I spend time rewriting my drafts, bouncing my script with friends online... What’s new now is an Instagram session I am doing, as part of which I do conference video calls with film personalities and go live to clarify doubts on filmmaking.Just before the lockdown, I posted a picture of me scripting in social media and omeone I knew asked me what software I was using for writing. nother associate director friend of mine also spoke with me for an hour on writing.
That’s when I decided that an online session would be helpful. I figured it would be better to bring in ther directors to weigh in as well. I have brought in those like Madhumita (KD), Ashwin Saravanan (Game Over), Ashwath Marimuthu (Oh My Kadavule), Ranga (Auto Shankar), Gantumoote director Roopa Rao... Aspiring filmmakers have thanked me for this initiative, and I feel like I have done something worthy. Considering it takes almost half a day to plan these videos, it makes me feel that I have spent the lockdown time purposefully so far.
Sakshi Agarwal, actor
“I am not stepping out of my house at all. I am trying my best to do creative things to keep myself busy. I have started something called #21DayChallenge on Instagram, where I am sharing pictures of various creative things people are up to. I am trying to take the best of whatever people are doing and sharing it with the rest of the world. This is just for the purpose of giving some positivity and hope for my fellow countrymen. In addition, I am doing a lot of workouts at home. I am finally cleaning up my make-up kits, and organising my wardrobe. I am learning a lot of cooking from my mom. Also, I have started spending more time in indoor gardening. I am doing a lot of reading, and deep thinking. I have also found the time to dive deep into Netflix. I personally feel this is the perfect time for healing and self-contemplation. Once you get busy with your daily lives, it’s difficult to get such productive ‘metime’. So, maybe, this is nature’s way of pressing the pause bottom, and making us go back to our creative roots.”
Balaji Mohan, director
“I have started writing these shorts called ‘micros’ regularly. These times can be scary, confusing and depressing to people, and I just wanted to post something that could make people feel good or introspect. Isn’t it great to offer a few minutes of comfort? This is just my way of offering a few minutes of company for anyone scrolling through their social media. It is also for myself, as I am consistently writing everyday.
I started writing these ‘micros’ only after the lockdown was announced. It allows me to be continuously creative in these times, and motivates me to flex my writing muscle everyday. This also gives me an opportunity to tap into a philosophical, reflective portion of my thoughts that I don’t engage much with, usually. Right now, everyone is in a space where they are willing to listen and open up. Our reality is in question and that has led to much introspection. We are asking the big questions. It seemed like the best time to share such thoughts. A lot of people have been forthcoming with their art. This includes everyone from meme creators who have made us laugh, to writers, musicians, and filmmakers. I believe art and spirituality will be crucial in helping us get back to normal, or to even process the change, once all this is over.”
Arjun Chidambaram, actor
“I’m learning to play different songs on the guitar, and trying to upload cover videos. I am also using this time to learn how to play the keyboard. Watching a movie a day with my parents has also become a regular habit. This lockdown has given me the time to binge-watch Money Heist and I’m trying my hand at a couple of online games too like Zynga Poker. I tried PUBG, but found it to be too difficult. I also try and make sure I spread awareness about the disease and also, through my social media accounts, s p r e a d positivity
Balaji Mohan, director
“I have started writing these shorts called ‘micros’ regularly. These times can be scary, confusing and depressing to people, and I just wanted to post something that could make people feel good or introspect. Isn’t it great to offer a few minutes of comfort? This is just my way of offering a few minutes of company for anyone scrolling through their social media. It is also for myself, as I am consistently writing everyday. I started writing these ‘micros’ only after the lockdown was announced. It allows me to be continuously creative in these times, and motivates me to flex my writing muscle everyday. This also gives me an opportunity to tap into a philosophical, reflective portion of my thoughts that I don’t engage much with, usually. Right now, everyone is in a space where they are willing to listen and open up. Our reality is in question and that has led to much introspection. We are asking the big questions. It seemed like the best time to share such thoughts. A lot of people have been forthcoming with their art. This includes everyone from meme creators who have made us laugh, to writers, musicians, and filmmakers. I believe art and spirituality will be crucial in helping us get back to normal, or to even process the change, once all this is over.”
Sundeep Kishan, Actor
I am reliving the life of the 90s and revisiting the times gone by. I am trying to learn new things and better myself at things I already know. I am improving the overall health and hygiene by working out at home and understanding the benefits of eating food with less oil, following clean cooking methods and experimenting with different cuisines as well. I am watching old classics of Telugu cinema and doing an analysis on how the process of filmmaking has changed or evolved over the years. I like watching funfilled stuf f and I am enjoying bingewatching onl i n e . I re-watched my all-time favourite series Entourage. I also liked Netlifx’s Messiah and Amazon Prime’s The Boys. Besides these activities, I am taking story narrations on Face- Time and looking forward to getting back to work. I think I am doing a universal case study during this lockdown (laughs). I’m looking forward to the release of my next film, Vezham, with Ashok Selvan, after the lockdown ends. Meanwhile, I have also been working out and selecting clothes for my online store, Hazel Avenue, to keep myself engaged. What began as fun workouts to keep boredom away have now become more intense. My sister also g i v e s m e company.”
Shriya Pilgaonkar, actor
“As the last few months were hectic for me workwise, the first week of the lockdown was just about resting it out, spending time with my family and dog, reading and watching things. I am a homebody at heart but I don’t want lethargy to kick in. So I’ve been doing different workouts and allowing myself to flow in this free time. I have been watching a mixed bag of things. I watched both seasons of Killing Eve created by Phoebe Waller Bridge, who I absolutely love. I’ve been watching a lot of animation: Studio Ghibli Films on Netflix and a lovely Japanese Series called Midnight Dinner: Tokyo Stories. I also caught up on some South films on my list like Super Deluxe and Kumbalangi Nights. I am currently reading Essays on Love by Alain de Botton and the screenwriting book Save The Cat (by Blake Snyder). I have also been doing an online s c r e e n w r i t i n g course which has been interesting. Besides that, I’ve been spending a lot of time with dad (veteran actor Sachin Pilgaonkar). Not many people know but he is fluent in Urdu and writes a lot of Shayari, so we’ve been discussing a lot of that which has been beautiful.”
Madhur Bhandarkar, director
“I begin my day with workouts: a mix of cardio, weight training and yoga. I then do puja, spend time with my family. I catch up with my friends on Facetime. I like to spend the day reading or listening to my LP records. I have a collection of some 2000 records, as well as countless DVDs. I’ve been enjoying cleaning and sorting them out. I recently re-watched classic films like Sound of Music, Godfather, Satte Pe Satta and Shaan. In books, I read Arun Shourie’s A Secular Agenda and Vinod Mehta’s memoir, Lucknow Boy. I am a restless person by nature, so this lockdown has been an opportunity to pause and introspect. I was saddened to see the plight of migrant workers across India. As filmmakers, we are all contributing to fight this unexpected crisis. The time has come for everyone to unite and put humanity first.”
Abhimanyu Dassani, actor
“I wake up around 8-8.30 every morning. I try to have at least two meals with my family — mostly breakfast and lunch. I read scripts through the day or catch up on more sleep. In the evenings, I play board-games like Ludo, Taboo and Judgement with my family. I’ve been watching a lot of shows: Tiger King (on Netflix), Special Ops (Hostar) and the last season of Billions (Hotstar). I’ll also recommend the Anime series, My Hero Academia. Cooking is my first love as well as a form of meditation. I’ve been trying a lot of healthy recipes: I made mushroom ravioli, gluten-free pizza, gluten-free pasta and lots of eggs. I’ve been posting daily workouts on Instagram that people can do at home. It’s always easy to follow a regime if someone gives you written instructions every day. A woman messaged me saying that her husband, who hadn’t exercised for a year, was inspired by my series to work out.”
Maanvi Gagroo, Actor
“I don’t wake up with the alarm anymore. I begin my day by doing yoga and following my workout routine. I then meditate for 15 minutes. This is followed by cooking breakfast and doing chores. The latter takes up most of my time. In the evenings, I’ll sit by the window and read a book. If not, I’ll have my dinner and watch something. I’ve been catching one film everyday: I saw Contagion, The Platform, Parasite. There’s also a lot of video-calling that’s happening with my parents. In all, I am surprising myself with my positivity.”