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Friday, May 23, 2014

why give entertainment tax relief to Rajnikant starrer 'Kochadaiyaan"

On Oct 2010, when Rajni starrer Enthiran hit the screens, there was huge traffic  jam nearer EA Mall............... the first silent movie in Tamil, Keechaka Vadham was made by R. Nataraja Mudaliar in 1931. 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.

 Now the talk is all about “Kochadaiiyaan”  (The king with a long, curly mane]),  a 2014 Tamil motion capture 3D computer-animated period film directed by Soundarya.  The much hyped and much awaited film  hit the silver screens today  across the country, making the actor first Indian film professional to appear in different formats of movie making. 

For more days from now on, we would read about Rajni fans’ disappointment in not getting tickets – how much this film grossed – how many shows it has run and more.......... by some accounts, the film has been released in nearly 2,000 theatres across the world in many languages, including Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, English, Punjabi and Bhojpuri.

Read that the film is the story of a legendary warrior, Kochadaiiyaan (played by Rajinikanth), who lives in Kottaipatinam and his son, Rana Ranvijay. Riku-daman, the Maharaja of Kottaipatinam (Nasser) starts feeling jealous of his trusted army commander, Kochadaiiyaan’s popularity in his kingdom. .......  as the curtain rolls – more people would be writing the storyline and I am not keen to post anything on those lines.  ~ not sure whether this would turn out to be too much of an animation too ! – not sure whether 3D and animation could appeal ordinary cinema goers too !! – and it is a high budget project of the superstar’s daughter.  Whatever it could be – the first few days would not reveal much as it would be turn of the star’s fans to have glimpse and say it is super. Comparisons with Hollywood films Avatar, made with the same technology, could become inevitable,  what level does it compares and fares remains to be seen. There reportedly  is a ten-minute stunt in the film, choreographed by Peter Hein not for the stunt of Rajni but the heroine !!!.

This post is more on TOI and other media articles on tax relief.  TOI reports that tickets for Rajinikanth's 'Kochadaiyaan' will weigh at least 15% less on his fans' wallet, thanks to a Madras high court order on Thursday asking theatres and exhibitors not to collect the entertainment tax component as the film has been given exemption from the levy.  As per the Tamil Nadu Entertainments Tax Act 1939, 15% of the gross collection on a new movie and 10% of the collection on an old film should be paid as entertainment tax.

Since 2006, the Tamil Nadu government has been giving tax exemption to films which have Tamil titles and promote Tamil language and culture, besides enjoying 'U' certificate from Censor Board. While recent films such as Vadivelu's comeback film 'Tenaliraman' and 'Ennamo Edho' were not given entertainment tax exemption, on May 12, a government order was issued extending the benefit to 'Kochadaiyaan'. Assailing the move, while a batch of PILs against the tax exemption practice was pending in the high court, a PIL was filed by advocate S Muthiah stating that it was improper for the government to exempt the film from the tax net.  But, refusing to interfere with the state government's decision, a vacation bench of Justice M M Sundresh and Justice R Mahadevan ordered that authorities and exhibitors should not demand and collect entertainment tax from the public. "Exhibitors cannot demand and collect the amount from the general public who go to see the movie. We pass an interim order directing the authorities as well as their agents, including the exhibitors, from collecting any tax for which the exemption has been granted by the government," the judges said.

The order of tax exemption for 'Kochadaiyaan' was issued on May 12, thereby denying the tax exemption benefit to lakhs of fans who had already booked their tickets online and in theatres.  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.

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.  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 and in what way Kochadaiyaan deserves such a relief  is the Q

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

23rd May 2014. 

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