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Budget Boon

Are the Centre’s Budget promises to the film industry just sops or will they pan out as hoped?

The entertainment sector always wanted to be recognized as an industry and its wish was finally granted in the year 2000. But that didn’t ease the challenges the film industry has been grappling with for a long time. Among these, some of the big ones were entertainment tax and piracy.

In the last couple of years, when movie tickets were brought under the Goods & Services Tax (GST) regime, it didn’t help at all. First, movie tickets were slotted in the 28-per cent GST tax bracket and, second, local bodies were allowed to impose entertainment tax on tickets. This made movie-going a prohibitive experience for many.

However, thanks to the recent interactions between the film industry and the Central Government, GST on movie tickets has been brought down to 12 and 18 per cent. Taking the cause of the film industry further in the 2019 Interim Budget, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal announced a single window clearance for filmmakers seeking shooting permission in India as well as an anti-camcording provision in The Cinematograph Act, 1952. We spoke to producers, directors, distributors and exhibitors across the country about what they thought about these measures and how they would impact the film industry. This is what they had to say:   

Bhushan Kumar, Chairman, T-Series & Super cassettes

The amendments announced in the Union Budget with respect to the entertainment industry are very welcome and are an indicator of the government recognising us as an important part of the economic system. Extending us a helping hand will help us create content with ease and has the potential to boost tourism as well. This move will help everyone down the chain in the industry, from producers to exhibitors, and will give content creators a big boost.

We are happy that they are focusing on piracy as well. Piracy has a huge impact on the business of films, which is box-office collections. When we make films, we want the audience to experience them in theatres. Whether it is a small film or a big one, an average one or a hit film, the 70mm experience is something we want the audience to have.  All films deserve to be acknowledged but piracy hampers this experience because this audience gets to view a film sitting at home with a pirated copy of the film on a website. We expect a film to do a certain kind of business but the numbers go up and down as the pirated quality films which are easily available, pose an obstacle for filmmakers as well as movie-goers.

We are very happy that the government has taken this into consideration and is working on this. The industry is in dire need of it and we all welcome and support this initiative. It will lead to getting more people to come to theatres, which will lead to them having an unhampered movie experience and better box-office collections. When a film does well and there is a cash inflow for filmmakers, more good films will be made with better budgets. The control on piracy with the anti-camcording provision in The Cinematograph Act will provide better returns, leading to more employment as well as increased budgets to make better films.

Siddharth Roy Kapur, Filmmaker and President, Producers Guild of India

We are delighted that the immense contribution of Indian cinema towards employment generation in the country has been acknowledged and applauded in Parliament during the presentation of the Union Budget. The announcement of a single-window clearance mechanism for Indian filmmakers filming within India is a significant step and has the potential to play a huge role in boosting tourism in the country. The amendments in the anti-camcording provisions will support the industry’s growth by curtailing illegal recordings of films in cinema halls and will go a long way towards reducing piracy.

Vivek Krishnani, Managing Director, Sony Pictures Entertainment

Let’s first talk about the anti-camcording provisions that have been passed and the changes that have been made in The Cinematograph Act. Piracy, as we all know, is one of the biggest reasons for the loss of revenue for the entertainment business and it needs to be controlled.

The anti-camcording provisions will be a strong deterrent to offenders and will also strengthen the law at the hands of lawmakers. It’s important that people realize that they can be penalized if they are caught pirating content from theatres. It is a good step and will hopefully act as a strong deterrent. It will also help the industry save a lot of money. As of now, thousands of crores of rupees is lost every year because of piracy. If we have to curtail this and ensure that there is legal consumption of content, then we need laws that are a strong deterrent to piracy.

With regard to single window clearance, that is again a great move. It is important that the government recognize the need for the Indian film industry to get the mechanism to pass the clearances and ensure that things are handled through a single window rather than obtaining multiple permissions from central and state government to shoot at different Indian locations.

Earlier, it was available to only foreign film producers but now the fact that even Indian filmmakers can take the benefit of this particular mechanism, I think it will be a great boon and will definitely encourage a lot of filmmakers to shoot in India and we will see a lot of interesting content being generated by virtue of that. The single window clearance is extremely essential for ensuring that there is seamless production in India and it will help ease production challenges.

They have already started an FFO (Film Facilitation Office) in Delhi for foreign filmmakers. The point here is now there is obviously a system that seems to be in place. Yes, we have to test it. All these measures are great but they have to deliver on their promises. It will obviously take a while for things to fall in line, whether it is the single window clearance mechanism or the anti-camcording provision. We have to study it a little more and once people test it and experience the results, there will be no looking back.

Ramesh Taurani, Producer

It will help the industry in a big way. Piracy will be controlled and it should be done as soon as possible because so much money is at stake every week. If piracy is curbed, box-office collections will double. About single window clearance, we are asking for this for the last 10 years. This is the first time the government is doing something for the film industry. Our budget has never before included any provisions for the film industry. I am very happy with what is happening now.

Indra Kumar, Director

Single window clearance is definitely a good thing and it will help filmmakers. About the anti-camcording provisions, well, they are very important. We have above 125 crore of population in India and take a look at how many (few) people go to theatres to watch movies. Calculate how many people went to theatres to watch a film like 3 Idiots or a Dangal for an average `100 per ticket and you will be shocked at the statistics. Less than three per cent of the population watched these films. Imagine just how much piracy is affecting the business of the film industry.

If we are able to control piracy, I assure you that in next five years our industry’s business will equal that of Hollywood’s. In Hollywood, the laws and policies are strong. Even we have some powerful people in our government. When elections approach, these politicians want us to campaign for them and some actors even help them but no one has had the guts to tell the government to do something in our favour. And it is not like the film industry alone is losing the money; the government too sustains losses on this account.

When my last film Great Grand Masti was about to release, it leaked two weeks before the release date. I was not compensated in any way and I lost crores of rupees despite all the hard work I had put in for two years. If we don’t take steps sooner to stop this menace, then we will be doomed.

Now put this in the context of the rapidly growing platforms for entertainment, both online and television. The competition is getting difficult. We have to raise the bar, spend so much money and deliver something different to weather the competition.

 

Anees Bazmee, Director-Writer

It is a great decision for filmmakers as it will reduce the levels of permissions involved, leading to ease at the production stage. Elimination of piracy is definitely the need of the hour, it has been the root cause of losses. It is also unethical. I hope this change is executed and accepted by all. The anti-camcording provision is an excellent decision by the government. It will combat the threat of piracy and hopefully eradicate it completely. Producers and shareholders will be in a better space as their creativity and property will be secured.

Vipul Shah, Director-Producer

The single window clearance and the anti-camcording provision are good initiatives and they will help filmmakers. They will also reduce corruption but I feel that the industry is facing too many challenges and much more can be done by the government for the industry. However, it is a great beginning and I hope this continues.

Dinesh Vijan, Director-Producer

The single window clearance is an effective and transparent method and will make the process much more efficient. Filmmakers no longer need to run from pillar to post to get a green signal as the process is now consolidated and hence smoother. It is a masterstroke. The anti-camcording provision is also a welcome development. Piracy isn’t something that affects just me, but the entire Indian film fraternity. We put a lot of sweat and blood into our work and it is always disheartening to see it being stolen. All of us need to come together as a society to curb this evil. This initiative by the government will go a long way towards sending out a ‘no tolerance for piracy’ message loud and clear.

Sunir Kheterpal, CEO, AZURE Entertainment

Obtaining permissions from various authorities has been very time consuming. Single window clearance will not only save time but also eradicate the hidden costs involved in the procedure. Hoping that anti-camcording provisions terminate piracy as a whole and the offenders are punished. This can be executed only with the support of exhibitors. This will also help films to collect better revenues.

Raj Kumar Gupta, Director-Writer

The single clearance window is a very positive change. It will greatly help filmmakers and producers. It is always helpful to have one authority or one window where you can get all the clearances. This would eliminate the hassles one usually encounters when one has to take permissions from various authorities. There are too many guidelines and that can get confusing. I believe that single clearance window is a very welcome change. The anti-piracy move is great and will make a difference. Any effort to stop piracy is always welcome from not only filmmakers but the entire industry.

Siddharth Anand Kumar, VP, Films and TV, Saregama and Producer at Yoodlee Films

Both these provisions in the Budget presented this year are confident strides in empowering filmmakers like us to focus on making superlative content without distractions that subtract from the creative process. The single window clearance system, till now available only to foreign films, will be significant in reducing the time spent and avoiding the trouble in seeking the various permissions required before the onset of any shoot. The existing process to obtain various permissions from multiple powers for film shoots is inefficient, cumbersome and counter-productive and this makes budgeting take a toss, especially for smaller films that don’t have the luxury of time or money to absorb this kind of expense.

I am hopeful that with the right implementation of the single window clearance, we can focus on just making good and engaging content, without losing sleep on figuring out when the permission to shoot in your chosen location will come through from the municipal authorities! The anti-camcording provision is going to enable the law to take stringent action against offenders. Curbing piracy at the theatre level is of paramount importance and I am hopeful that this provision will lead to curbing and eventually preventing piracy.

Srijit Mukherji, Director-Writer-Producer

I am very happy with the proposed single window clearance. It will help get more foreign films and foreign crew into India. That way, we will get to expose ourselves to more technologies from around the world when it comes to filmmaking. This will also provide more experience to coordinators and production people, which will benefit the filmmaking industry.

Any anti-piracy act is welcome with open arms. Piracy not only erodes the revenue of producers but also spoils the cinema-watching experience of the audience. It gets them habituated to watching content that is corruptible in terms of visuals and sound. All the work that goes into making a film goes to waste.

Devang Sampat, Director of India’s Strategic Initiative, Cinepolis

The single window clearance and anti-camcording policies are very good initiatives and welcome moves by the government. Finally, the government is looking at the film industry seriously. The measures clearly suggest that there will be a focus on movies getting their release dates faster. Now the release dates for movies can be decided in advance. Hence, the focus can now be on how to market and position them rather than waiting till the last moment for clearance. This will be a boon for the industry.

Regarding piracy… With smartphones available, even when we catch offenders red-handed, the law allowed them to get bail easily. With the amended rules in place, it will be quite helpful for us. Both the moves are great and we welcome them.

Sushil Kumar Agrawal, CEO, Ultra Media and Entertainment (Prolific Film Producers, Content Syndicators & and Distributors)

It will give a huge fillip to the Indian film industry. This industry is a major employment generator and we make the maximum number of films in the world. A single window clearance for ease of shooting films in various locations, which earlier was available only to international filmmakers, will help in faster processing and completion of the shooting of films and control production costs and working capital.

This will also encourage filmmakers to opt for Indian locations to shoot their films instead of opting for foreign destinations and save on costs. The introduction of anti-camcording provisions in The Cinematograph Act will also be a major clampdown on film piracy. Such positive measures in the budget for the film industry close on the heels of the reduction of GST rates on film tickets have given a strong impetus to the growth of the Indian entertainment industry.

Firdausul Hasan, President, Film Federation of India

It was a moment of pride for all of us associated with the industry when the contribution of Indian cinema was at last recognized, for the employment opportunities it creates in the country, during the presentation of the Union Budget. Tourism will surely benefit with the provision of single-window clearance for filmmakers shooting in India. We hope piracy and illegal recording from cinemas will also be curtailed with the amendment in the anti-camcording provision. We look forward to better times for the film industry.

Anand Pandit, Producer

As a member of the film industry and a producer, I believe the single window clearance that is being given by the government in this Budget to filmmakers is an extremely welcome move. It will make the ease of getting shooting permissions very accessible and a lot less time will be spent in getting the same. I believe this Budget looks at filmmakers and the industry as a major force in the country and I congratulate Shri Modiji for his vision in understanding our problems and finding a solution for us. By streamlining the process, producers like me will be able to make films far easier and in less time. Issues like copyright infringement, film piracy, camcording and content leakage have weakened the Indian film industry by hampering legitimate revenue production. I welcome the amendment to The Cinematograph Act which will penalise anyone who indulges in piracy. Unofficial estimates have put the loss of revenue to the Indian film industry because of piracy at 2.5 billion dollars. What is needed now is strict implementation of the laws.

Arindam Sil, Actor-Director

A single window clearance is always welcome and that is how it is done in most developed countries. Having said that, single window clearance requires a lot of prep work and information to be generated, sourced and presented properly. A single window has to be equipped properly and with lot of detailing. Only then will it be successful. The anti-piracy initiative has 100 per cent support.

Omung Kumar, Director

I welcome the move by the Modi government to make these amendments to The Cinematograph Act. This will ensure that whoever indulges in piracy will be penalised. For the longest time, many films have suffered because they have either been leaked online or prints have been stolen from cinema halls. I believe that with the fear of being penalised and with the law being after those who indulge in piracy, it will act as a huge deterrent, at least significantly. What we need next is for the amendment to be adequately implemented. That will really help the industry.

Sandip Ssingh, Founder & Director, Legend Global Studios

I think it’s high time that we start doing things for ourselves also. I am so happy that cinema has finally been taken so seriously by the ministry. It will help a lot of people in terms of employment and gives a lot of motivation. I think these measures alone will motivate people to make more films.

I am so happy that Finance Minister Piyush Goyal mentioned URI: The Surgical Strike in the budget. I think it is the first time ever that the finance minister has mentioned a film’s name while presenting the budget. I met Piyush Goyal and I know that he loves watching cinema with his family. I think the Modi government has taken care of everything, minutely. The Finance Minister spoke about piracy and I think the authority will take it very seriously. I think footfalls will increase at cinemas. Overall, outflow will benefit and recovery will be very easy. Everyone will benefit. I think the entire industry should be thankful to the Modi government. I am grateful to the Indian government for finally giving the Indian film industry the importance it deserves. It is a very important step and it will help the industry grow. Piracy has been causing huge losses at the box office for a very long time. I am grateful to the government for this initiative and hope that they support us in future as well.

Amit Chandrra, Chairman and Managing Director, Trigger Happy Entertainment Network

The single window clearance will definitely expedite the process of pre-production, as it will cut down the time required to seek permissions before shoots commence, which is currently a long-drawn process for filmmakers. Also, the anti cam-cording provision has been announced at the right time. As an industry, we need to protect our rights and revenues and stop piracy.

In fact, we were very successful in doing our bit with an innovation for URI:The Surgical Strike where a video was uploaded on Torrent sites with the same file size as that of a full-length movie. Upon downloading the Torrent file, users found a video of the cast talking to the person who downloaded, urging them to watch the movie in theatres and to stop piracy.

With changing times, our industry also needs newer and more effective ways to prosper and combat things like piracy. I feel slowly but steadily we are headed in the right direction. Also to have the support of our government in these endeavours is encouraging and highly appreciated.

Mudassar Aziz, Director-Writer

I am not sure how the single window clearance mechanism will be put into place. It is one thing to promise ‘single window clearance’ but as someone who is actively involved with choosing locations and who knows exactly what goes into it in terms of permission and other logistics, I know it is a humongous task. So I can comment on implementation only when it comes into effect. I am not a particularly huge fan of this government’s implementation of policies. Having said that, as a member of the film fraternity, I am very happy that attention has been paid towards this.

As far as the anti-camcording provision goes, coming from the Union Budget is a very healthy sign. It means that care is being provided towards an industry which unfortunately bears the brunt of things eating into their revenue and yet can’t do anything about it. That is a very welcome move. I hope it will be implemented well and it will be carried out properly. I hope some strict regulations are put in place to implement it. It is very heartening that the government has given this aspect a thought.

Rajesh Mishra, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Indian Operations, UFO Moviez

We believe that this is a great move for the Indian film industry. We welcome the government’s initiative to introduce the anti-camcording provision as part of The Cinematograph Act to fight against piracy. This will give teeth to the law to take stringent action against offenders. UFO Moviez digital cinema systems provides watermarking in each cinema wherein the system creates a unique fingerprint when projecting a digital movie onto the screen in a non-intrusive manner. This technology security feature makes it possible to trace, from a pirated CD or DVD, the name and location of the theatre where the film was illegally videographed, along with other coordinates like time, date etc., thus, helping to crack down on piracy. We are sure this is a very pragmatic step ahead by the government and will ensure the reduction of losses that the film industry incurs.

Balkrishna Shroff, Distributor, Mumbai

Single window clearance is good, theoretically, but I don’t know how they are going to implement it. Film shooting takes place in various states and so it is governed by state policy, so how can the central government offer single window clearance?

Regarding the anti-camcording provisions, government has recently imposed fine of `10 lakh and/or three years of imprisonment against those who get involved into piracy. This is a very strict provision. It will definitely help the film industry a lot.

G Dhananjayan, Producer-Distributor, BOFTA

Just like GST, this too is a fantastic move. But it all comes down to how the state governments are going to implement it. Till GST came in, there was entertainment tax imposed by each individual state government. There was no logic as the tax varied from one state to another. GST brought in uniformity.

Unfortunately today, permission for shooting is a state government prerogative and each one gives permissions based on their whims. Some of them give permission, some don’t. For example, in Chennai you cannot shoot in public locations in the day time, only at night but you can in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Pondicherry. That is why you see a lot of Tamil films being shot in Pondicherry. I hope and pray that the central government ruling for single window clearance for permissions is a standardised rule across states.

With regard to the anti-camcording provision, severe punishment is the only solution to curbing piracy. Today, people are using very advanced cameras, even pen cameras or mobiles while sitting in the last row. Then they upload to their networks immediately. This has become a huge menace and it is killing business. The state governments should not have any role in this and the central government should implement the law severely.

Ravi Machchar, Distributor, Nizam

Anti-piracy rules can curb the menace but I don’t know how they will completely eradicate it. There is a group of people who call themselves the ‘Tamil Rockers’ who upload pirated films on the Internet the day after a film is released. How will they be brought to book? I personally believe that the day is not very far when a film is releases on your phone simultaneously with its theatrical release. When that happens, then won’t be any point to piracy.

 

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