CHENNAI:Superstar Rajinikanth has tweeted a request to the Tamil Nadu government, asking it to reconsider a 30 per cent municipal tax on movie tickets introduced after the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was launched at midnight last Friday. “Keeping in mind the livelihood of lakhs of people in the Tamil film industry, I sincerely request the TN GOVT to seriously consider our plea,” said Rajinikanth, 66, who is shooting for a new film in Mumbai and has kept fans guessing on whether he will join politics soon.
More than a 1,000 cinemas in the state have been closed for the last two days in protest against the hike in taxes – they say that the state tax of 30 per cent on tickets on top of the new national tax GST of 28 percent will deter cinema-goers and encourage piracy.
They say their strike is indefinite and they will not screen films till their demand is met. Tamil film industry representatives say the taxes could affect the livelihoods of nearly one million people. “We lose around 20 crore a day due to the strike,” Abirami Ramanathan, who heads the Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association, told NDTV.
The issue was raised in the state assembly on Tuesday by the Opposition.
GST, the country’s biggest-ever fiscal reform, intends to replace more than a dozen national and state levies with a single unified tax regime. But as part of negotiations to get states to accept GST, it was agreed that some could impose additional local levies. Tamil Nadu has targeted cinema tickets.
Actor and filmmaker Kamal Haasan had on Monday told news agency IANS that “film making in the state has been made difficult deliberately”. He said of the new state tax in a statement, “There are further tortures and systemic corruption that the film industry has to endure under this regime,” pointing out that other neighbouring southern states have not imposed any additional tax on cinema over and above the Goods and Services Tax.
“The tax rate on tickets is 58 percent, the highest in the country,” Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners and Distributors Association President Abhirami Ramanathan said, adding that “It is a burden on movie-goers and defeats the objective of the new tax regime.”
Mr Ramanathan said the taxes would encourage people to illegally download films. Movie theatre owners say that they accept the new GST, but that cinemas cannot afford the state duty as well.
The Tamil film industry is India’s second biggest after the Mumbai-based Bollywood, and the state accounts for a huge chunk of the $2.1 billion annual box office earnings across the country.