The Kerala government is ready with a comprehensive new draft bill to curb substance abuse and other illegal activities on film sets in the state. This comes days after the Kerala Film Producers’ Association decided to scrap three major projects involving actor Shane Nigam alleging that there is rampant drug abuse on locations and film sets in the Malayalam industry.
Law Minister AKA Balan, who also holds the Culture and Cinema portfolio, announced the move to reporters on Saturday, after a meeting with the Kerala Film Producers Association (KFPA). According to reports, the meeting between KFPA members and AK Balan was held on the instructions of CM Pinarayi Vijayan.
Last week, members of KFPA held a press meet in which they alleged rampant substance abuse happening in Malayalam film sets, and welcomed the police to crack down on this.
"There is a lot of drug abuse happening in film sets, especially among new-age actors. There is suspected use of hard drugs and new substances which cannot be detected through smell. It is not like earlier when actors would smoke marijuana. The new crop of actors is using other substances. We do not have any proof or any names now. But we will cooperate fully with the Kerala police if they decide to take action. We welcome measures such as caravan checks on film sets," Rakesh B, KFPA's treasurer had told TNM.
Following their meeting with AK Balan, the law minister stated that the government would interfere in the film industry's affairs only if the film fraternity made a result in writing.
The statement by AK Balan drew flak from retired justice B Kemal Pasha who said that a written complaint was not necessary to crackdown on drugs.
"Possession of drugs is a cognisable offence and can invite sentence up to 20 years and if the same accused is caught in such a case again. Such people can even be given a death sentence," Pasha said.
The retired judge also added that the concerned officer need only inform his senior and, "once at the location, the officer has to just inform that they are going to conduct the search to the concerned producer or director, whosoever is in control of the location."
Ban on Shane lifted
Meanwhile, KFPA, who on Friday had announced a ban on Shane Nigam and scrapping of three of his new films, has now confirmed that the ban on the actor has been lifted.
The association members had on Friday announced that they were scrapping 3 of the young actor's films - Veyil, Kurbani and Ullasam. The producers added that the ban was imposed due to Shane's non-cooperation and alleged unprofessional behaviour on the film sets.
However, on Sunday, the association revoked the ban stating that they wanted Shane to complete Veyil and Kurbani — which are still being shot. The producers’ association members also added that they will speak to AMMA (Association of Malayalam Movie Actors) on the issue.
Shane and producer of Veyil Joby George had earlier sparked a controversy after the former violated an informal agreement on not getting his hair cut short. For his role in Veyil, Shane was required to maintain long hair and a beard until the shoot ended. Following the incident, Shane had taken to Facebook to say that he and his family were being threatened by Joby George. The duo buried the hatchet during a meeting in Kochi with Joby apologising to Shane's mother and manager.
Strike against entertainment tax hike withdrawn
The producers’ association has also withdrawn the decision not to screen films in the 17 Kerala State Film Development Corporation theatres, in order to protest against the hike in entertainment tax in the state.
The producer's body discussed the issue with Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac. Following this, the boycott on KSFDC theatres has been withdrawn.
When the Goods and Services Tax was introduced in 2017, the state government had scrapped entertainment tax for movies to avoid double taxation.
However, the GST on films was reduced from 18 percent to 12 percent on a Rs 100 ticket and from 28 percent to 18 percent on tickets costing more than Rs 100.
Following this, the state government in January 2019 introduced a 10 percent Local Body Entertainment tax which sparked protests among producers.
While the government has not agreed to scrap the entertainment tax, a memorandum from the producers association has been accepted and the state has agreed to look into discrepancies in the GST taxation slab, bringing the producers' strike to an end.
(With inputs from IANS)