SUN SETTING ON THE FILM INDUSTRY, GOODIES FOR EVERYBODY BUT THE FILM INDUSTRY
By Anil Nagrath
The Government has made it repeatedly clear through its various policies and declarations that it is bothered about everybody else except the film industry because it has ignored the industry despite our never-ending numerous pleas to provide immediate relief to the film industry which is being ruined by the imposition of multiple taxes. The most cruel of these are Service Tax at 15 percent on every service utilised, Entertainment Tax which is charged up to the highly unreasonable level of 45-54% and even the so-called people friendly AAP Government in Delhi, has made substantial increase in the entertainment tax immediately after coming in power. The AAP Government has provided relief to all segments of society except middle-class and affluent whom they don’t consider to be their vote-bank. This makes me wonder whether the Aam Aadmi of Delhi who is their voter, doesn’t visit cinema halls according to the AAP Government and hence will not mind paying the extra entertainment tax, which needs to be abolished as it is not a crime to entertain anybody or get entertained.
All the other State Governments treat the film industry except their regional language film industry as undesirable pariah because while they offer everything from free land to tax holidays to numerous benefits to all other industries, the revenue of the film industry has to be taxed at the first collection point ie the ticket counter whereas in all other industries taxes are recovered only after deducting costs. As far as regional cinema is concerned, everyone is aware that entertainment tax exemption and provision of subsidies, has led to the resurgence of the dead regional language film industries throughout the country wherever they are being promoted.
Despite our raising the matter time and again that Hindi films despite their world-wide popularity, have become a regional film industry restricted to U.P, M.P and Rajasthan, no effective steps have been taken by the Central Governmentor the Governments in these states to save this industry. The Government only looks at the big budget multi-starcast films doing well and being lost in the glamour which covers the pain and sorrow of the dying film industry, they deliberately and wilfully ignore the industry. This is despite every year being informed that the film producer of yore is already dead and gone and now filmmaking is restricted only to few corporate entities, who are directly or indirectly connected with every big-budget star-cast film. As these major corporates are dealing with public money and enough book balancing methods are available, they are able to sustain the heavy losses which are directly caused by the extremely high multi-level taxation which is done at every possible stage of filmmaking. So far the corporates are suffering the losses but for how long? It is just a matter of time before the whole film industry collapses like a house of cards, bringing down with it all the glorious multiplexes and single screen outlets being made in huge numbers all over the country to screen films which are not being made and without films, they can be used for nothing except storing potatoes and being used as cold storage.
The few films that are being made are being subject to deliberate harassment and torture of every possible kind by the CBFC. The Government is so blind towards the plight of the film industry that they are not even willing to consider changing the Sanskari chairman, who has come with the pre-determined agenda that every film passed before his tenure was wrongly passed and that he is the sole superman, who has been appointed by the Government to implement each and every impossible to implement guidelines. These guidelines make no sense but this man has gone beyond all limits to impose every condition he can whether in the guidelines or not. His banning many anti-government films like the film Patidar and insisting on deleting the name Goa from a film Mission On A Weekend, as revealed by the newspapers that this filmmaker is being forced to go to court against the diktats of CBFC after the victory of the producers of Udta Punjab, where the High Court clearly told the CBFC that its mandate is only to certify films. The CBFC cannot try to influence the content of a film as that is the absolute preserve of the filmmaker, who is at full liberty to make a film that he believes in because the film he is making is with his own money and no financial help from the Government of any nature whatsoever. If the Government has any credibility and wants to show that it really recognizes the film industry as an industry, it should immediately get rid of this nuisance, as well as the guidelines and allow the film industry the power of self-censorship as in other democratic countries of the world because no government can abdicate the power of deciding what its citizens/voters want to watch after paying their hard-earned money.
The news of the Government accepting and implementing the recommendations of the 7th pay commission, which will add an additional burden of many lakhs of crores on the Government and private sector which is payable with arrears since January 2016, which has been happily accepted by the Government. It is to be noted that the employees who are getting up to 23.5% increment, have outrightly rejected the offer of the Government and are threatening to go on strike from 11th July. One has seen with our own eyes this Government, which had committed to be proactive and decisive in taking a stand on various matters but instead the Government has no qualms in taking a step back if there is a protest or any violent incident takes place like the Jat agitation, where Jat mobs were allowed to run riot before the Government, agreed to grant reservations. These were basically illegal in the full knowledge of the Government and therefore were dismissed by the courts, leaving us with the same scenario where the Jats are threatening to go on the streets again and the government is again engaged in futile exercise of talking with them proving that the Government is willing to spread largesse and fulfil all demands of people irrespective of their legality and validity.
I am quite sure even in the matter of the 7th commission, the Government will wait for the employees to go on strike and then will meekly bow before them because unlike their commitment of less government and more governance, this Government has proved that it believes in more Government, no governance particularly in the case of the film industry, which was already in dire straits but which is being literally throttled to commit suicide by the unbridled taxation and unbearable control on freedom of expression. I have to spend crores to make a film on a subject in which I believe in making for which I pay Rs 50-60 lakhs taxes and a few people sitting in CBFC decide whether my film is worth showing or not having utter disdain about my investment and dreams.
It is about time that we make the government wake up to the realities and make it realise that the film industry can be the sunshine industry, leading India to popularity all over the world because of its control over the audiences and therefore its benefit lies in helping and promoting this industry rather than killing it.