The film industry’s protest against the proposed goods and services tax rate of 28% received a shot in the arm on Friday when actor, director and producer Kamal Haasan spoke out, seeking lower tax slab for the industry.
“We have been fighting this battle for four years. We have spoken to politicians from several states. We see this as a big punishment for our industry. We are requesting the government to reduce the tax slab,” said Haasan.
“Don’t club us in the ‘sinful industry’ bracket. Art is very important in a society. Film industry simply can’t afford 28% GST rate,” he added.
Taking an offence at the proposal to charge cinema the same tax rate as ‘sinful’ items like alcohol and tobacco products, he said, “Cinema is my life… I am offended that cinema has been put under sinful category.”
“We have had a Bharat Ratna from our industry. Can a sinful industry produce a Bharat Ratna?”
Haasan said it was a wrong idea to club Bollywood movies, which have a budget of crores of rupees, and regional cinema, often produced on shoestring budget, in the same tax slab.
He also reminded the government that it’s the regional cinema which brings India recognition at various international platforms. “When it comes to pride of India, it’s always regional cinemas that stands up for awards in international arena,” said Haasan.
“Regional cinema is the strength of Indian cinema. We need to maintain this diversity. We cannot bring monoculture. When industry cannot afford such high tax rate, it will collapse,” he warned.
“Even I will have to quit the industry if I am on the highest tax slab.”
Requesting Narendra Modi government to reconsider the tax slabs, Haasan said unsustainably high tax rates “could lead to more corruption and black money.”
“Demonetisation was introduced to curb black money, but this move will take us two steps back.”