India’s film industry is the world’s largest in terms of the quantity of movies produced and the pandemic has not just slowed it down but impeded return on revenue. To add to its woes, there have been multiple instances of stars and crew members contracting COVID-19 including Akshay Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Bhumi Pedenkar, Arjun Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Alia Bhatt, Ranbir Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor among many others.
As the industry sought urgent solutions to counter the challenges of COVID-19, an industry insider found a way to address their anxieties via India’s first set safety company, ‘Life First’. Aditya Gupta, the mind behind this health and sanitation service is currently busy pandemic proofing some of the best-known production houses in the film business and says, “The intention behind starting ‘Life First,’ was to ensure that people can feel safe and protected as they work. Apart from state-of-the-art sanitation equipment, pandemic adaptive technology and bio bubbles, we offer our clients this reassuring core message, “We put your life first.”
The messaging has worked because Aditya is now overseeing Ram Madhvani’s new venture ‘Dhamaka’, director Shakun Batra’s latest with Dharma Productions, and already has to his credit Netflix’s Ajeeb Daastaans, ‘Jamtara’ – Season 2 and ‘Ray,’ an anthology inspired by the works of Satyajit Ray. Other major clients include Red Chillies Entertainment, Dharma Productions, Excel Entertainment, Amazon Prime Video, Abundantia Entertainment, among many others. The company has also supervised the safety protocols of over 700 ad films. Aditya adds, “We now customise sanitation and safety solutions not just for film sets but also for various other industries and facilities — award functions, events, concerts, homes, schools, theatres, and offices as well.”
As a director and chief assistant director for over 12 years with credits such as ‘Andhadhun’ and ‘OK Jaanu,’ Aditya understood the challenges being faced by production crews. He knows that every film set is unique and to gauge the unique needs of each, he begins with meeting the direction and production teams. He then figures how and where the shooting schedule will unfold. Once the script requirements and shooting logistics are in place, the protocols are designed in keeping with locations, the number of people present on set and potential risks. Restricted access to certain areas, crowd management and clear colour coding also increase the safety quotient.
Also aiding him is an innovative technology based on a short wavelength ultraviolet light (UV-C). Aditya explains, “The germicidal UV-C is channelled through 10 x 20 feet hubs, portable robots and 90-litre boxes to destroy microorganisms, viruses, fungus, mould, bacteria and pathogens up to 99.9% in just 60 seconds. The equipment sterilises sets, vanities, toilets and even smaller touchable items like mics, files, gadgets, craft table goodies, brushes, combs and styling tools.”
The UV-C hub that ‘Life First’ is striving to patent is a massive sanitising chamber or kiosk and its idea came from the UV-C box that doctors keep their surgical tools in post medical procedures. The UV light effortlessly and thoroughly disinfects surfaces, air, and water without leaving behind any odour or residue. Aditya adds, “We also use FDA approved, non-toxic herbal and Ayurvedic disinfectants and all our procedures are in compliance with directives issued by producer’s guilds.” The company also helps with vaccinations, COVID-19 testing and PPE kit management and is now working to create an air purification prototype that will purify over 3,000 to 5,000 square metres in under two hours.
Aditya concludes, “‘Life First’ began with two people and a passion to create solutions the industry could rely on in a challenging time. Along the way, it has grown into a team of 170 professionals who can handle 25 to 30 projects at the same time. We are now on the verge of working on our first international project. In the near future, we also want to address fire and environment safety concerns of production crews and that is the next frontier we hope to conquer.”