Two weeks after the fixed rate of 28% tax under the GST (Goods and Services Tax) for cinema was announced, actor Kamal Haasan and other representatives of the Tamil film industry have hit out at the Central Government.
At a news conference in Chennai on Friday, Kamal accused the government of charging ruinously high taxes like the East India Company and said that he 'will not work for the government'.
A sense of panic has prevailed amongst members of the industry since the tax slabs were announced, but this is the first time that they have come out to openly criticise the move. According to reports, Tamil Nadu, which had various slabs of entertainment tax from 12% to 30%, will now have a uniform GST of 28% from panchayat to metro cities.
This could, reportedly, mean that a single screen in a C centre will pay the same tax as a high-end multiplex in Chennai. The maximum ticket rates in a Chennai multiplex, it is speculated, may go up from Rs 120 to Rs 153.60 from July 1, assuming that GST is going to be charged over and above the MRP.
"I was promised an easy life when the Republic (of India) was formed," said Kamal, taking yet another dig at the 'colonial manner' of taxation. "Why should I work for the Government. I work for my own sustainability and it is not getting easier. I will have to quit the industry if I am on the highest tax slab," he added. The actor further warned that if such a high level of taxation was allowed, other regional cinema will face the same plight as Marathi cinema, which was pushed to the sidelines by the Hindi film industry.
Abirami Ramanathan, President of the Chennai Theatre Owners Association, who was also present at the venue, said cinema was being clubbed along with 'sinful industries' such as gambling and alcohol. "How can art be equated with a sinful industry?" asked the leading distributor and exhibitor. "28% is too much. I will lose my clientele and we request that the tax slab be reconsidered," he added.
Kamal, known to not mince words, claimed that this form of taxation was a 'big punishment'. "This is my life and I woke up to cinema. I am offended that it could be put under the sinful category," he said.
"When it comes to the pride of India, it was always regional cinema that stood up for awards in international arenas. Regional cinema contributes to the might of the country. You can't reduce that through taxation," he warned.
The actor further stated that regional cinema cannot be put on the same level as Bollywood films. He said the only source of revenue outside India (for regional cinema) was the regional diaspora and that the industry will not be able to afford such high taxes.