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‘U’ certified films in Kollywood just to get Govt Tax Exemption?

While many in the Tamil film industry are glad that the state government provides a 30 per cent tax exemption for ‘U’-rated films, a grow...

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While many in the Tamil film industry are glad that the state government provides a 30 per cent tax exemption for ‘U’-rated films, a growing number of filmmakers feel that there is a scramble for the ‘U’ certificate that is taking the bite out of our films.

“Non-star films and small budget films have to be non-formulaic to get noticed. But it has become a business necessity to get ‘U’ certificate because they will not have the opening of a star-driven film,” says director CS Amudhan,who reveals that there is a lot of pressure from the production and distribution side to make ‘U’-rated films because they cannot afford to lose 30 per cent of the revenue.

He is now re-editing his upcoming Rendaavathu Padam after being told by the censor board that the film can only be given ‘U/A’ certificate in its present form. When negotiating with producers, theatre owners and distributors take into account the censor rating to fix a price on the film. Even films featuring stars like Thalaivaa, Pandiya Naadu and Biriyani went to the revising committee to try and get ‘U’ after being given ‘U/A’ initially.

Producer Rajkumar blames this situation for the current deluge of comedy films. “A film industry has to make all genres of films, but the compulsion to get ‘U’ certificate has made many wary of exploring new genres. It is a big task to recover your investment after being taxed 30 per cent of your revenue, so producers are reluctant to take on out-of-the- box stories. This is the reason why we have many ‘safe’ comedy films these days,” he says and feels that it would benefit the industry if there is a uniform tax slab (which is lesser than the present percentage),where every film is taxed equally irrespective of their censor rating.

Some in the industry also feel that the guidelines on tax exemption are subject to individual interpretation. In October, producer and actor Udhayanidhi Stalin had shot a letter to the Tamil Film Producers’ Council alleging irregularities in granting tax exemption. “It has become routine for the committee for recommending entertainment tax to reject tax exemption adducing motivated reasons such as ‘violence’, ‘obscenity’ and ‘employing more than enough other languages than Tamil language’, even after obtaining ‘U’ certificate from the censor board,” he said in the letter.

Meanwhile, RS Prasanna, the director of Kalyana Samayal Saadham,which was rated ‘U/A’, says that the censor rating was the elephant in the room when he pitched the story to his producers. “We did consider it and decided to keep the budget very, very low so that it doesn’t hurt financially.We are storytellers and some stories are not meant for everyone but still have to be made,” he says.

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