It’s curtains down for theatres across TN but stars remain mute spectators to tax strike

The practice of getting big salaries and not depending on how the film does for remuneration, has given actors the luxury of not caring, say theatre owners.
It’s curtains down for theatres across TN but stars remain mute spectators to tax strike
It’s curtains down for theatres across TN but stars remain mute spectators to tax strike

Theatres across Tamil Nadu remained shut for the second consecutive day in protest against the state government's decision to levy 30% local body tax. This is over and above the 28% Goods and Services Tax (GST). Members of the Tamil Nadu Film Chamber of Commerce have been endlessly walking up and down the stairs of the Secretariat to receive some form of relief. 

But even as theatre owners and producers express dismay at the double taxation and plead with the government, most actors remain silent regarding the issue. 

"Actors are on top of the food chain as far as this industry is concerned. We theatre owners are at the bottom and are forced to take the hit as far as consumption of a film is concerned," says Nikilesh Surya, Executive Director, Rohini Silver Screens. "We want actors like Rajinikanth and Vijay, who draw such high salaries to come out and talk about this. Their voices will definitely have more impact," he adds. 

The practice of getting salaries and not depending on how the film does for remuneration, theatre owners say, has allowed actors the luxury of not caring. 

Actor Kamal Haasan, when quizzed by the media on his thoughts about the ongoing strike on Monday, remained non-committal stating, “I can't talk now. We will speak later.” He, however, added that the Tamil film industry “will speak in one voice”.

And while the superstars in Kollywood remain mute spectators to the shutdown, many others have spoken up.

While actor Siddharth hit out at both the state and the centre for the confusion caused by GST, he also pinned the blame on the Tamil Nadu government for punishing Tamil cinema for years, by fostering a culture of bribes.

Vivekh also took to Twitter to express his angst against the double taxation

(Translation: If Cinema release and ticket rates are not just, then filmmakers and cinema will be destroyed.)

But just a handful of actors is not enough, claim theatre owners, warning that a shutdown of screens will eventually lead to a forceful halt to the production of films. 

"If we stop screening films, then the movies that are supposed to release will get delayed. This means that it makes no sense to continue production of other movies. The entire supply chain will take a hit," explains Nikilesh. "In addition, over 50,000 people which the industry hires on a daily basis, will be rendered without work," he adds. 

Even the Producer's Council which had first hit out at the Theatre Owners’ Association for taking a call on shutting cinema halls without consulting them, has now come around. Actor Vishal, President of Tamil Nadu Film Producers Council, who joined the delegation to meet officials including Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami on Monday said the government has sought another day of extension to sort out the matter.

"They were initially worried that it will affect newly released films but we explained the situation to them," says Nikilesh. "If producers were getting Rs 40-50 for every ticket we sold earlier, under the new tax regime, they get only Rs 10-12. So, it makes no sense to function this way," he adds. 

Some actors in the industry, agree that stars have to support the cause. "If they haven't done it yet, they must," says Mohan Raman, a veteran in Tamil cinema. "No industry can bear 60% taxation and if a man has actually shut down his business, he has clearly been left with no other choice," he adds. 

For directors whose recently released films were enjoying a good run, the closing down of theatres remains a matter of concern. "We have been told that once theatres reopen, our films will be screened again. But with so many new movies lined up in the coming weeks, we are not sure how feasible that is, " says Rangoon Director Rajkumar Periasamy. "As filmmakers we face enough hurdles as it is to get our movies to the cinema halls. But if the theatre owners do manage to pull this off and have their demands fulfilled we will all definitely look up to them," he adds. 

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