SOCIALLY RELEVANT FILMS- DON’T THEY DESERVE A TAX- FREE STATUS?
WHY AREN’T THESE FILMS BEING ABLE TO REACH OUT TO THE AUDIENCES?
A well-known distributor recently pointed out to me how the admission rates of films were directed related to the poor box-office collections of some films. The distributor was talking in the context of several socially relevant films released in the recent past like Chalk N Duster, Nil Battey Sannata, Laal Rang, Traffic and even Buddha In A Traffic Jam, some of which went unnoticed at the box-office. All these films were loaded with a strong message that could have a perceptible change in society and impact the social thinking on various important issues. Chalk N Duster and Nil Battey Sannata for instance, were both connected to the field of education and its importance in life, Laal Rang was about the racket of blood banks, Traffic was about the mission of a heart transplant and Buddha In A Traffic Jam, was about how students could be used as a front for political conspiracies. Some of these films were definitely well- made and deserved a better response than what they actually got and they should have ideally reached across to the audiences. I feel sorry for these filmmakers who go out of their way to make such films, directing their passion for filmmaking towards a socially relevant cause, sacrificing their own interests in the process.
THE LEAST THE GOVERNMENT CAN DO FOR SUCH FILMS IS TO MAKE THEM TAX-FREE
While I would not be able to comment on whether the makers effectively marketed these films, I can certainly say that the steep admission rates reduce the business prospects of such films. More so, these films do not bank on stars but on the content or the realistic point of view that they try to portray. Ideally, it should be the Government which should take the initiative of making such films tax-free so that they can be seen by as many people as possible and spread the message across in society. In a state like Maharashtra where entertainment tax is as high as 45 percent, a tax-free status for a film can make a significant difference in the admission rates of such films. In that respect, I would like to applaud the U.P Government’s initiative in the tax-free status it has been giving to several well-meaning and thought-provoking films. I hope the other State Governments
take the cue and encourage filmmakers to make more meaningful films. In fact, the Government should make it mandatory for such films to be given a tax-free status, so that they are not lost amidst the commercial lot of films. Alternately, there should be a mechanism that films like these do not have problems in finding theatres for their release, besides ensuring that the admission rate structure for such films is kept at a reasonable low. I would also like to laud some big distribution houses which are patronizing these films and releasing them, without looking at their own personal profits.
ADMISSION RATES AND ONLINE PIRACY
That reminds me about the menace of online piracy and how the steep admission rates indirectly encourage online piracy of films. The audiences who endorse online pirated versions of films are invariably those who cannot afford the ticket rates at multiplexes. I am told that piracy is cutting into the business of films and online pirated versions of a majority of new releases are available within a fortnight of their release on the digital media. The thriving piracy market is directly cutting into the collections of films. More importantly, it is very difficult to trace the source of piracy and track it down. Right now, there is no effective plan in place to tackle piracy on a war footing. A majority of producers only realize the extent of damage after it is done. Ideally producers should take precautions at the time of the release by bringing in a court order that would restrain online sites from screening the film but the best way to tackle piracy is to encourage audiences to watch films
in the theatres by cutting down admission rates.