Big productions backed by stars flex their muscle at multiplexes, while Indie filmmakers get odd slots, writes Bikas Ranjan Mishra
In 2011-12, the Pune district entertainment tax department collected Rs 33.18 crore from multiplexes and single screen theatres. With entertainment tax rates as high as 30 to 70 percent, the government is the biggest grosser from blockbusters. A leading producer estimates that out of every Rs 100 spent on a film, Rs 20-22 is pocketed by the government.
Itâs a wonder that despite such a punitive tax regime, our film industry thrives and even manages to put up a fight against the mighty Hollywood. Why? Because we have traditionally made films for ourselves and we are the country of largest movie-goers in the world.
National award winning filmmaker Onirâs petition âSave Indie Cinemaâ needs to be seen in the backdrop of an oppressive censor regime, multiple taxation and poor distribution and exhibition opportunities available to Indie filmmakers. The joint petition signed by Buddhadeb Das Gupta, Aparna Sen, Ashutosh Gowariker, Resul Pookutty among others highlights the problems faced by filmmakers who work outside the mainstream. However, the solutions it seeks remain questionable. The 12 point demands by the filmmakers of repute seem to seek protectionist remedies which sound out of place in post 1991 India.
Indian cinema is going through an exciting phase. Our commercial cinema has managed to fight the behemoth of Hollywood while our Indie cinema is in much demand at international festivals. Indie cinema faces a tough time only when it comes to distribution. The core issue here is the lack of a level playing field. Big productions backed by stars flex their muscle at multiplexes while Indie filmmakers get odd slots and are thrown out sooner than they deserve for the lack of publicity budget.
The government, which collects hefty taxes from filmmakers, needs to intervene but the question is: can it run theatre chains as demanded by the petitioners? Is it in the spirit of the time when the government is disinvesting and getting into regulatory roles?