TFPC President Vishal on ongoing no-new-release stance in Tamil Nadu: 'This strike is an attempt to revamp the industry'
While addressing the media, Vishal said he will soon meet both Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth to discuss with them the demands of the TFPC.
It has been more than three weeks since the no-new-release rule came into place in the Tamil film industry, bringing the entire fraternity to a grinding halt from 1 March. The strike reached its zenith when the Tamil Film Producers Council (TFPC) placed an indefinite embargo on all post-production activities, film shoots, press meets and audio/teaser/trailer launches on 16 March.
Now, a handful of movies, which are being filmed in foreign locations, will also come to a standstill from 23 March as the ongoing rift between TFPC and Digital Service Providers (DSPs) widens by the day as both parties continue to argue against each other without any amicable solution.
Speaking to reporters in Chennai, Vishal, president of the TFPC, responded to an array of queries regarding the shutdown and the reason behind his sudden meeting with Kamal Haasan. "When it comes to our film industry, Kamal sir is a vital personality and I felt that it's my responsibility to explain to him about the pressing need for this shutdown, in person. That's the agenda of this meeting. I have elucidated the reasons behind our protest and he shared his thoughts. It was a healthy discussion. He has always been acting in the best interests of the industry. He is someone who has never hesitated to voice his opinions and to be great support vehemently. I don't intend to mean that the purpose of this meeting is just to solicit his help. His involvement is highly critical in a situation like this," said Vishal.
Asked if he would meet superstar Rajinikanth to explain him about the stalemate, Vishal replied in the affirmative. "Though they (Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan) have entered politics, they are indispensable to the film industry. Also as the General Secretary of Artists Association and President of TFPC, I owe an explanation to the legendary personalities who belong to the association. I will meet Rajini sir too very soon."
Vishal stressed that the ongoing strike is not a selfish choice made my the TFPC as an act of ego. "Rather than using the term strike or shut down, I would choose to say this as an attempt to renovate and revamp the industry. We have been negotiating with various stakeholders including directors union, cameramen association, theatre owners association with the intent of bringing out some changes. This shutdown is definitely not an act of ego. Producers strive a lot to make a film, and when it comes to releasing them, it's a whole new set of struggles they face at that time. It has to change."
Vishal also appealed to theater owners in the state to pay heed to the long-time requests of producers. "Our demands are quite fundamental. Our first request is to computerise the ticketing across all theaters. Also, a change in terms with the DSPs is not too much to ask for. I'm not trying to poke my nose into the theatre's food business. All we are attempting is to make the movie-going experience affordable to the commoners. Burdening the audience with online booking fee, parking charges and a lot more is not going to help in increasing the footfalls. We are not proposing any unreasonable demands. We are just asking to bring down the charges to make film-watching an inexpensive experience."
Responding to questions about the skyrocketing salary of big heroes, which in turn overshoots the production budget, Vishal said, "Tamil Nadu is the only state with double taxation after GST imposition. We negotiated with the government and brought the state tax from thirty percent to eight percent, which is still a considerable amount. There have been multiple statements about the remuneration of artists. Only when the theatres computerise the ticketing and provide the association with the exact numbers on the collection, we can do something about it. A distributor should know the correct figures of a show after it ends and before the next show commences. It will bring more transparency and stars would also get to know their box office prowess precisely," he stated.
Meanwhile, veteran distributor Tiruppur Subramaniam, in an audio message, has requested producers to understand the plight of exhibitors and treat them as friends. "When DSPs hit the market with their projectors, the producers said it would cut the cost of printing and the quality will not degrade with multiple screening. When this promise was made, we migrated to digital and now the producers, who had then agreed to pay the VPF charges for the projectors, are now protesting against paying. We have been renewing the contracts as the technology evolves and latest projectors are being replaced with the old ones. And when the producers can't pay the charges and with a big chunk of the advertisement money directly going into the pocket of DSPs, how can a theatre owner earn the profit?" points out Subramaniam.
Another accusation on theater owners is the online booking fee charged on film-goers. "The online booking charge is not enjoyed entirely by theatre owners; a fair share goes to the booking agency and the bank too. For exhibitors, there are expenses to be met like the electricity, staffing and maintenance. The producers think we are basking in money and they see us as their rivals," said Subramaniam.
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