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Friday, August 9, 2013

Movie budgets in multi crores ... Cinemas seek entertainment tax exemption

The first silent movie in Tamil,Keechaka Vadham was made by R. Nataraja Mudaliar in 1931. The first talkie was a multi-lingual Kalidas which released on 31 October 1931, barely 7 months after India's first talking picture Alam Ara …………. Life has moved a long way since….  ~ the media has given so much of space for Vijay starrer ‘Thalaiva’ debating on whether it would be released today.

I do see Cinema ~ but feel disoriented when I see the fanfare of cinestars and the huge amounts spent on Cinema ~ from its production, the fee of various artistes and the money spent in making a movie and more in promoting it.  In a Nation afflicted by poverty and malnourishment, when it comes to Cinema, people talk only in 8 digits i.e., crores   Cinema is one industry  - entertainment industry, they call – one place where the earning has no inverse relation to talent, hardwork or education; people become rich overnight  – where only a small portion of money gets accounted – every blockbuster is touted as having been made spending… crores of rupees – but does the producer as and when they make huge money, do proportionately pay Income tax, which every citizen is expected of. 

But whether we like or want it…. Cinema is integral part of Nation’s life – especially that of South India  - more specifically Tamil Nadu which has had many Chief Ministers with association to tinseldom.  A few decades ago, it was MGR – Sivaji; then to Rajnikanth – Kamal…….  ~ now you have heroes with looks of those whom you come across in market place…  whoever the actor be …. It is no longer – 25 days / 50 days / 100 days posters… it is all about Crores – the budget 100 crores and grossing more…. is what is often talked about……….. in a Nation where politicians are speaking different voice on what constitutes poverty line ~ in tollywood / bollywood / kolliwood – people speak on C, spend in C and expect more Cs………

In our land movies are subjected to entertainment tax……. This tax falls in List 2 of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India and is exclusively reserved as a revenue source for the state governments. Historically, before India acquired independence British government imposed heavy taxes on the events of amusements and entertainment, where a large gathering of Indians could have caused rebellion or mutiny. After independence, old enactments continued and there has been no revision or repeal of these acts. One of the basic features of the Entertainments Tax Act is to impose a tax in respect of each person admitted as a spectator or as one of the audience, on payment, to a cinematographic exhibition or horse race etc.

Every now and then you hear the cacophony of people demanding that a particular movie be exempt from entertainment tax …. If it is a movie – a biopic on Mahatma Gandhi, Perunthalaivar Kamaraj, the greatest of the poets – Mahakavi Subrahmanya Bharathi or anything that will make people understand our National history / heritage or make them more patriotic or could help expand their knowledge, there is some purpose in granting entertainment tax. Why for commercial movies – where the intent is making money – why should they be allowed any exemption at all ? – why should the State lose revenue for fatting the wallets of some rich.

Today, there is report that Actor Vijay who plays a gangland don in his latest film, received a lesson in protocol on Thursday. Vijay reportedly arrived in Kodanadu in Nilgiris district unannounced on Thursday,hoping to meet CM J Jayalalithaa  seeking CM’s help but could not meet her.  He is reported to have submitted a petition to a secretary of the chief minister in Kodanadu.

This is nothing against Vijay or his new film ‘Thalaiva’ – but should the State be spending so much of its time on cinema – on its release – on providing security to it et. al…. not long ago, Viswarupam got mired into many controversies ~ was that cinema too in any way contributory to the welfare of the State…. Newspaper reports suggest that actor Vijay and producer Chandraprakash Jain reached Kodanad but were not allowed inside.A secretary came to the main gate and received a petition from the actor. They are quoted as stating that the films producer,distributors and theatre owners face the possibility of huge losses if the film is not released as planned. The Tamil Nadu government refused to give the film tax exemption,a sum estimated at 10 crore for Thalaivaa.

A few years back it was announced that films with Tamil names would be given exemption – which later turned out to be a comedy with some films ridiculing the system and getting the benefit.  It was subsequently modified a couple of years ago that films applying for exemption should have been given ‘U' (unrestricted viewing) certificate by the Censor Board and that they should not depict excessive violence or obscenity. It was further stipulated that the story-line or plot of the films should be conducive to the development of Tamil language and culture. The dialogues in the films should also be predominantly in Tamil, barring scenes in which the use of other languages may be necessary.

There are so many taxes affecting the common man; the price of essentials are spiralling up due to incidence of newer taxes…. Should Cinema be allowed any exemption from entertainment tax is the Q

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.


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