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Monday, August 1, 2011

Cinema ...... Cinema.... cinema - and the Govt's largess for promoting it !!

Their popularity descends barriers and apart from the common folk, even Govts recognise them by presenting awards to actors and seating them on par with Industrialists and Scientists !!   There are various techniques and the modern technology is very advanced.  Initially, films were only  series of individual images called frames. When these images are shown rapidly in succession, a viewer has the illusion that motion is occurring.
Though I am pronouncedly not a great fan, it is a mass media – a very powerful media at that.  It is stated every day hundreds of boys and girls set their foot on to the city  through the Central and Egmore Railway stations coming  from nook corners of villages dreaming to be a Hero.  It is indeed  ‘Dream Factory’ – manufacturing dreams or a factory only in dreams !  Punch dialogues are powerful weapons.  People hero worship actors and follow their footsteps.  The present cine world is considered as a path to politicaldom and one can cite numerous examples including : Annadurai, MG Ramachandran, Karunanidhi, Jayalalitha, SSR, Sarathkumar, Vijayakant & more…
Cinema, film, movie and known by other names is a motion picture – a series of still or moving images.   There are various technicians ranging from the Director,  Music director, cinematographer, dance master, editors, dialogue writers, singers  to lightboys and other assistants engaged in the process of filmmaking.   Film were touted to be cultural artifacts reflecting culture and local traditions – to me they are at best source of popular entertainment shying away from the element of being a powerful media for educating or indoctrinating  citizens.  The visuals have great power of communication. If the film is really good, even the language may not be barrier.  
Indian cinema industry  consists of films produced across India, including the cinematic culture of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal. Indian films have a clout of following internationally with expatriate population and others throughout South Asia and the Middle East.  Now it is a global enterprise.   The tamil  cine industry is known as ‘kollywood’ with its connection to Kodambakkam where once many movie studios existed and housed many of the actors of yesteryears.  Tamil cinema is known for being India's second largest film industry in terms of revenue and worldwide distribution.
From the days of silent films – 1931 Kalidas, tamil cinema has come a long way.  The State has patronized the industry in a big manner all the time, perhaps arising from the fact that actors have made it big and have influenced the State politics from ages.  Without going into the production costs and methodology of distribution i.e, screening which rakes in crores of money, for the common man, cinema is seen in theatres.  The cost of the ticket has been constantly going up but not the amenities.  The ticket price I includes a small % which goes to the State exchequer as tax – perhaps the only good for the State !!
But there have been exemptions even in that little of entertainment tax.  Way back in 1930s,  the legislature of the State of Madras passed the Entertainment Tax Act of 1939.  Film studios in Chennai are bound by legislation, such as the Cinematography Film Rules of 1948, the Cinematography Act of 1952, and the Copyright Act of 1957. Various Chief Ministers have been praised and accorded grand receiptions by the tinseldom which inturn has benefited by the largesse of Governments.  Earlier, the previous Government made provisions for an entertainment tax exemption for Tamil films having titles in words from the Tamil language only.  That was with the passage of  Government Order 72 on July 22, 2006.
As it happens the rules get diluted and the intention gets watered.  Even the first film after the new Order enjoyed it by changing a little. Yes a little.  It was originally titled Something Something Unakkum Ennakkum, which became Unakkum Enakkum shedding the English part of title to claim exemption.  If it was a move to promote the language, certainly it failed miserably.  One need not search for answers to whether Tamil gained prominence or whether the title really defines a movie !  Even in films with tamil titles, there have been songs and dialogues ridiculing the tamil literature and they too got exempted from entertainment tax is the sad story.   Remember in the much touted ‘Shivaji - the Boss’  - two girls were named Angavai & Sangavai [the names of the famous patron King – Vallal Pari] but were ridiculed.  There was a film song which ridiculed ‘aathichoodi’ by remixing it….
The flourishing film makers irrespective of whatever content they exhibited, walked away without paying taxes.  It was 15% tax exemption; those who were rich became richer.  The State kept losing a good amount for the benefit of some individual producers – for the regular cine goer, the amount was pittance but collective the loss of revenue was huge indeed.  The exemption, if at all to be considered should be for the contents and not for the title – as they say, you cannot tell the story of the film by looking at the poster, nay title.
The present Government is trying to change all that was made earlier and that includes the ‘tax exemption’.  Recently the Govt. has issued strict rules for Tamil feature films bearing Tamil titles to avail this entertainment tax exemption.  Now, films that have been given a 'U' certificate by the censor board alone are eligible for tax exemption. The storyline should lead to the development of Tamil as a language or as a culture, and majority of the dialogues in the film should be in Tamil. Also, films that are violent or those that boast off adult content aren't eligible for this tax waiver.  These rules are applicable to films that have applied for this tax exemption. However, with these rules it is likely that most commercial films will not receive the tax benefit as most of them have an 'A' certificate or are violent.
So going by the latest rules and regulations:   a)   Only 'U' certificate movies with the Tamil titles are eligible to get 15% exemption from the government. The movies, which is rated 'U/A' and 'A' from the Regional Censor Board, will not get the tax benefit.   b)  The story and the dialogues in the film should contribute to the development of the Tamil language, culture and heritage. Adding to that the major part of the dialogues in the film should be in the state language. c)   Overdose of violence, adult content, obscenity or the movies, which harm the peace of the state, are not eligible to get the tax exemption from the government.
There is news that some movies like Avan Ivan, Kachana failed to clear the bear even as the Vikaram starrer Deiva Thirumagan cleared the censor test with a clean U.  It is also reported that Govt.  will form a special committee, which will perform the role of an advisory council on the entertainment tax exemption.
Ironically, for the regular goer, 15% is pittance and for others like us, it is no news at all.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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