KAHAN GAYE WOH ACCHE DIN
WHERE ARE ACCHE DIN FOR FILM PRODUCERS
By Anil Nagrath
At the outset, I want to heartily congratulate Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and his entire cabinet for the great work that they have done in the last two years, which have not only seen target-oriented growth but also clear vision and road map to achieve what is needed for the growth and benefit of the country. The highlight of the two years has been that there has not even been a single slur of corruption of any nature whatsoever against any member of the Prime Minister’s cabinet. Simultaneously each successive day has brought out more and more proof and authentic evidence of the kind of corruption and cover-up that was going on in the name of governance so far. The shame of it all is that the leaders of the main opposition party which has now been nearly decimated are themselves out on bail from Court in criminal cases. They have the gall to challenge the presence of the national icon and brand ambassador of ‘beti bachao beti padao’ along with the Prime Minister in the two year celebrations of the Government. They had no right to do so and should realise that their time is over and by indulging in such nonsensical antics, they are only calling for doom to come before it plans to come.
The Modi Government has done wonderfully for India in terms of international relations and as compared to the previous Government, India has now become a power to reckon with and is amongst the topmost countries in terms of growth and prosperity. As against earlier image of poverty and our Government always going around with a begging bowl and taking numerous loans from World Bank and other international organisations, the burden of which loans is being borne by us citizens even today even though the profits were pocketed by those who ruled us. Unfortunately the benefits of ending of corruption as well as changing economic situation of India in the world as well as steeply falling oil prices, were not passed on to the consumers including film producers. The Finance Ministry totally ignored the plea of film producers to be excluded from payment of service tax as there was no possibility of recovery of the service tax paid in 99 percent cases (except big starcast films). There is hardly any collection of such films and whatever collection is there, is also taxed at the rate of minimum 48 percent (entertainment tax), which added to the earlier paid service tax of 15 percent amounts to non-refundable taxation of 63 percent because the service tax is payable on each and every service and equipment used by the filmmaker, as there is no other raw material.
In all other industries, all other taxes including service tax, are recovered before sale and are passed on to the consumer but here in a majority of films, there is no sale and hence no recovery and what the consumer has to bear is the most ridiculous and retrograde tax called entertainment tax from which this regime was expected to provide relief. However beyond taking advantage of film stars and their popularity, the Government has not done anything for the benefit of film producers who continue to be treated like persona non-grata who are doing the big crime of making a film and deserve to be exploited by one and all. For this more and more powers have been given to the taxation authorities, who can even go to the extent of arresting a person if he has not paid tax.
The most bure din instead of ache din for the film industry was the total sanskarisation of the CBFC by the new Government who had a laudable scheme called swatch India but unfortunately in implementation instead of swatch India, it became swatch cinema. Under this, the newly appointed Chairman started a one-man crusade to rid films of all cuss words and anything that was considered anti-sanskar or anti-government. As a result of this megalomaniac Chairman getting a simple thing like a CBFC certificate, has become a virtual torture for all producers, who want to make films of their choice which films have a definite audience which patronises them for their content. However the CBFC in its current sanskari avatar , is not prepared to allow any language which does not subscribe to their thoughts irrespective of the people
being shown in the film. This curtailment of the freedom of expression of any filmmaker, is really tragic and it is indeed a shame that despite our taking up this matter time and again in various articles and features in which we have exposed the totally uncalled for manner in which filmmakers who risk their all in making their films, are harassed by not censoring their films and delaying them resulting in heavy financial losses. This too, at a time when the CBFC certificate has no value and can be challenged anywhere in any court and criminal cases can be filed against the filmmaker and artist and therefore what is the use of this certificate? Moreso, when the certificate is used as a tool to force a certain kind of filmmaking as nowadays creative filmmakers who make realistic films or entertaining adult films, are being forced to directly approach the FCAT which is the Tribunal as each producer knows that while the CBFC will definitely not clear the film, the Tribunal will definitely clear it as it values the freedom of expression as well as the freedom of the audience to see films of their choice.
The fact that number of films refused by CBFC were being passed by the FCAT should have been indication enough to the CBFC that they are harassing the producers. Unfortunately instead of improving things, the Chairman of CBFC, has issued orders that from 2nd May 2016, CBFC will be seeing trials for certification only in DCP format and not in DVD format, which has been used so far, leading to extra expenses of Rs 20,000-Rs 25,000 per film for no rhyme or reason because this DCP format cannot be used for any other purpose including loading on the digital platforms for screening. This is an indication that a filmmaker is being treated like a milking cow and unnecessary new demands are being raised along with newer guidelines and restrictions thereby totally taking the charm out of filmmaking. I myself, am very desperate to direct a film and for the last two years I have a producer, who is willing to back me but I am totally nonplussed about what I should make because in today’s date and time, everything and anything is being found objectionable by the CBFC or some other fringe element and hence I am scared of starting my film.
In view of the above and the continuing problems faced by all filmmakers in India, I plead to the Honourable PM Narendra Modi, Finance and I & B Minister, Arun Jaitely, to kindly have mercy on the film industry and while bringing about ache din for everybody as promised, they should remember that the filmmakers also need their help and are looking forward to ache din in the days to come.