I don’t pay much attention to the rumors of who is dating who and what film maybe possibly might be signed by what actor. But the hardcore industrial stuff, that I find FASCINATING! And there were two stories that came out recently that I find really interesting.
First, tax rate news! Who doesn’t love news about taxes? The new entertainment tax levels just came out. The industry was pushing for 5%, the new rate is 28%. And that’s the national rate, state by state it could be even higher. Siddharth Roy Kapur (Mr. Vidya Balan, older brother of Aditya Roy Kapur) who is the former head of UTV and the current president of the Producer’s Guild, issued a full statement:
“The GST rate of 28% announced on cinema tickets is a huge setback for the film industry.
“The industry had proposed a rate of 5% in our representations to the Government, in order to revive a business which has been struggling from lack of fresh investments in new cinema screens and a significant increase in online piracy. In the existing tax regime, the cinema exhibition sector was exempted from service tax and state VAT, and entertainment tax was the only tax imposed on cinema tickets by states and local bodies.
“The average entertainment tax collected nationally by the government across all states and languages was in the range of 8-10% of gross box office revenue. Hence logically the GST rate should not have been more than 12%, in order to avoid any exchequer loss. Instead, the Government has equated the film sector with the gambling and betting industries and taxed it at the highest slab of 28%, in addition to which local bodies across states have also been empowered to impose entertainment tax, which was earlier to have been subsumed within GST.
“It is disheartening that the Government does not see the immense contribution that a vibrant “Make In India” film production sector can have in enhancing the soft power of the country. We are one of the only local film industries in the world to have thus far withstood the onslaught of Hollywood.
“Unfortunately, with such a lack of interest and support from the Government, the Indian film industry which should be one of the primary forms of cultural outreach from India to the rest of the world, finds itself in real danger of coming undone.”
I am in the middle of my 101 series on film and crime. This is why they are partners. The government itself says film is a crime, it is considered the same as the gambling and betting industries in their eyes. So film producers end up finding their support and dealing in the same shadowy arena as those industries. It’s more than just a tax rate, this is a statement on how film is viewed by society. It is “bad for you”, it is something shameful which the government in all its wisdom is trying to wean you away from.
Entertainment taxes are high everywhere, they are high in America too. Because the thinking is, it is a luxury, if people can’t afford it they can do without. Unlike, say, food. But the taxes in America are not THIS high. We also reserve our very highest level for things that we think our citizens should not do, cigarettes and alcohol primarily. The lesson being “you shouldn’t be doing this, we are taking your money away to remind you this is bad for you”.
But there are advantages here. Not for the film producers, Siddharth is right that this is terrible for them, cuts right into their profits. But for what I like about the Indian film industry, especially the Hindi industry.
“Multiplex films” have been becoming the norm. Those little cheap offbeat films like Running Shaadi, they don’t get any love from the distributors or the critics. And the gritty dirty action films have been fading away as well, it’s all glitz and fanciness now. Raees would have/should have done spectacular business in the single-screens, and it didn’t get that kind of release, or was promoted to that kind of audience. Instead we have all these casually wealthy people, not like in Yash Chopra films where the wealth was spectacle, but like “oh, you mean everyone doesn’t live like this?” kind of wealth. And problems about “gee, I’m just not ready to commit” or “Let me have a long naval gazing discussion about my career path” instead of life and death struggles. The big songs are going away, the big spectacles, the big dopey silly heartfelt everything.
And if film had gotten that lower tax rate, I think, it would have accelerated this whole process. It seems counterintuitive, if the taxes are higher, doesn’t that mean only wealthy people will be able to afford tickets?
But it’s not about the taxes, it’s about what they stand for. So long as film, and the film industry, is considered “the enemy”, that means it has to act like the enemy, act like the resistance. It’s still going to be sneaking in those little comments about corrupt cops and politicians, it’s still going to go to bat for unpopular opinions that the national government doesn’t want out there.
And the higher classes will still see Hindi film, just a little bit, in that realm of shamefulness, something that they are “too good for”. Which means the rest of the audience, the one who doesn’t worry about what the government thinks they should enjoy or the rights and wrongs of it, will be the only audience left.
One final thing, since taxes are a percentage of the total ticket price, they are the only way that multiplexes and single-screens are still equal. A distributor or a producer, when selling multiplex rights or multiplex tickets, makes 10 times the profit they do on single-screens. Fewer and fewer people are seeing movies in India, but the profits are sky-rocketing, because the producers are trying to narrowcast to the audience that can afford super expensive tickets.
But doesn’t matter if the ticket is sold for 400 rupees or 4 rupees, taxes take the same amount. You might as well go after a million 4 rupee tickets as a 10,000 400 rupee tickets. The profit margin is the same.
I guess my major point is that taxes are important, but if the film industry really wants to stop itself from coming undone, it has to make better movies. Which is something you would think the man who greenlit Freaking Fitoor would be aware of.
Second story, remember Uday Chopra? Does anyone? About 5 years ago, it was announced that he was going to America to start the Hollywood branch of Yash Raj. Which gave me flashbacks of when my big sister and father would play cards together and let me sit and watch and “play with the Jokers”. Kept me entertained, made me feel included, but didn’t actually interfere with the grown-ups’ fun.
Uday’s first big Hollywood project was Grace of Monaco, an infamously miss-handled film. It was based on a script from “the Black List”, that is, the list of best unproduced screenplays that have been passed around Hollywood for years. The script presumably was brilliant, the best talent was hired (Nicole Kidman starred), it got a perfect slot for a Cannes premiere, and the reviews were hilariously bad. It didn’t even get a theatrical release in America. The director even issued a statement trying to explain how his film was good, it was ruined in post-production, and he would rather we didn’t associate his name with it any more. That’s how bad it was.
And now Uday is at it again! With yet another scandalous golden age of Hollywood romance and big name female lead. This time, it’s Jessica Chastain playing Ingrid Bergman. Seems a bit odd, wouldn’t you want Alicia Vikander, who is riding a big wave right not and also actually, you know, Swedish?
But what’s really odd is the topic. Ingrid Bergman’s scandalous extra-marital love affair! With Capa??????? WHAT THE HECK??? THAT’S NOT THE RIGHT SCANDAL!!!!
If you aren’t up on Hollywood gossip (why should you be?), Ingrid Bergman was brought over from Sweden in 1939 to star in Intermezzo, a remake of a Swedish film. She was already a star in Sweden, but that was very different from being a star in America. She had graduated from an exclusive acting school, and went to work as an actress everyday, but otherwise her private life was fairly private. She was married to a doctor and had a baby daughter back in Sweden.
Intermezzo was a hit, and suddenly Bergman was signed to a contract in the US. Her husband and daughter came over to join her and her private life was turned into public property. The Hollywood PR machine massaged it and turned it into “private innocent Swedish woman, loves her husband and baby, acts because it is her passion”. But the “loves her husband and baby” part of it was the important part. You are already expecting the American audience to accept an actress with an accent, you can’t make her too exotic.
And then 10 years later, Bergman wrote a letter to Italian director Roberto Rossellini, expressing her admiration for two of his films that she had seen. They started a correspondence, she ended up cast in his next picture. They fell in love on set, and by the end of filming, she was pregnant. !!!!!!!
Bergman in her ten years in Hollywood had ended up being cast in a series of sort of remote and saintly roles. A nun, Joan of Arc, stuff like that. So her becoming such a spectacularly fallen woman was a HUGE scandal. She was denounced on the Senate floor, Ed Sullivan dropped her from his show, and the upshot was, she was blacklisted in Hollywood and could only work in Europe for the next 6 years.
She and Rossellini had 3 children in total, their son and twin daughters. She also started a massive custody battle to try to get back her daughter from her husband in the US (more scandal). She and Rossellini eventually did marry, and then separated 6 years later.
(Bergman, Rossellini, and their legitimate and illegitimate children)
In 1956, Bergman made a triumphant return to Hollywood in Anastasia, and continued working on and off until her death. Including in Cactus Flower, which was then remade as Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya, with the perfect casting of Sushmita Sen in the Bergman part. Another strong independent scandalous woman.
Now, THAT’S your movie! And do you see why I say “Capa what the heck????” I didn’t even know they knew each other! How did they know each other? Wasn’t Capa in Europe that whole time while Bergman was in America? If this weren’t so widely reported, I would think it was a miss-print. And besides, everyone knows that Gerda Taro was Capa’s one true great love.
And THAT’S your other movie! Two young photojournalists in Europe as it is exploding in the late 30s, falling so passionately in love that even their work became intertwined, jointly creating the identity of “Robert Capa” as a name used for work done by both of them, and Gerda being the first female photojournalist to cover the frontlines of a war, and the first one to die while doing so. And the remaining “Robert Capa” keeping that false name in memory of her, and never marrying.
(Gerda. So cool)
Oh well, I would say I am sure a movie about Ingrid Bergman and Robert Capa could be interesting too, only this is the same team that brought us Grace of Monaco, or rather, failed to bring us Grace of Monaco since they couldn’t find a distributor. So my hopes are low.
On the other hand, Good for you Uday! Who’s a big grown-up movie producer who doesn’t need his big brother or his Daddy or Mommy to hold his hand? You are! You are! Such a good boy! Have a little treat.