The Tamil Nadu Producers' Council's decision that no new Tamil film will be released from October 6, as a mark of protest over the 10% local body entertainment tax, has thrown filmmakers into a quandary.
Bejoy Nambiar's big budget bilingual flick Solo with Dulquer Salmaan, Neha Sharma, Sai Dhansika, Sruthi Hariharan, and a host of other actors in the cast, released on Thursday. However, the Tamil version of the film will not run from Friday. Bejoy said that he was tweeting with a "broken heart" and that despite "valiant efforts", the team was not able to prevent the film from being pulled out from theatres.
The Solo team has been promoting the film aggressively for weeks now.
However, the film has released in Malayalam in over 200 screens in Kerala as well as internationally.
Promotion money will go waste
Another film which was due to hit the screens on Friday is director Meera Kathiravan's Vizhithiru.
Speaking to TNM, the upset director said, "Yes, this is a big loss for us. The film was supposed to release in about 250 screens. We'd got good shows…the main ones. We've been promoting the film for the last 15-20 days. All that money spent on advertising will go waste. We'll have to do it all over again when we get a release date."
Further, the Atlee- Vijay film Mersal is supposed to be the big Deepavali release, hitting screens on October 18. Meera Kathiravan says that this means smaller films like his will not be able to get screens for at least 3 weeks after Mersal releases.
However, even though he is upset about his film being pulled out of the theatres in the last minute, Meera Kathiravan does not oppose the Council's decision as such.
"I met Vishal (President of the Producers' Council) yesterday and spoke to him. He was sympathetic about my situation. He has promised me and other filmmakers that when the time comes for our films to be released, we will be given priority," says Meera Kathiravan.
He further adds that this time around, all the cinema related unions are together in the strike and appear determined to oppose the imposition of the local body taxes and address the issue of ticket pricing.
"This time, it doesn't look like they will move even if it's going to be a big budget flick," he said.
However, Meera Kathiravan added that it would have been better if filmmakers had been given at least a 15-day window.
"There are six other small films which were supposed to release tomorrow. This is a time when the screens are relatively free. We don't know if we'll be in the same situation again. It was very shocking for all of us, " he says.
‘Double tax unfair’
Rathinakumar, Joint Secretary of the Exhibitors Association of Madurai-Ramanathapuram district, told TNM that the "double tax" was unfair.
"We can run theatres only if we have films. There's an additional 10% to the 28% that's already there only for the film industry. GST is applicable for everyone but this is double taxation. It should be one India, one tax," he said.
Rathinakumar further said that if producers stop giving them films, they'll have to stop running the theatres.
"Producers from other languages have stopped giving their films to Tamil Nadu from October 3. For other language films, they are charging 20% additionally. No new film will release from tomorrow. We cannot predict the losses as every movie will do different business," he said.
Rathinakumar says that there are 1100 theatres in Tamil Nadu and that since they won't be getting any films from producers, they too, will be on an "indirect protest" from Friday.
"After all the films which are currently running are taken off, the theatres will be shut till the time the Tamil Nadu government does away with these taxes," he said.
(With inputs from Pheba Mathew)