Bollywood likely to go on strike over service tax

Mumbai, Jan 15 (IANS) Bollywood is likely to call for a strike to protest against the government's decision to levy 12.36 percent service tax on film and television actors.

"We are in a process of deciding that if we have to call for a shut down. It's not our choice, we are compelled to do so. We are having a meeting soon and then we will decide about it," Mukesh Bhatt, president of the Film and Television Producers Guild of India, told IANS.

According to producer Ramesh Taurani, man behind films like "Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani" and forthcoming thriller "Race 2", producers are meeting Wednesday to discuss the issue.

"Tomorrow (Wednesday) all the producers will have a meeting where we will have to find a solution to the problem. It's an additional burden on us and we can't handle this anymore," he said.

The service tax is effective from this month and film and television actors will be charged 12.36 percent service tax on their earnings from film, TV shows and endorsements. The indirect tax will be in addition to their income tax and the producers believe that they will have to bear the brunt of it.

The new tax news has come as a dampener for the Indian film industry, which is celebrating its century this year.

"It saddens me that in the 100th year of Indian cinema, we should be celebrating, but how can one celebrate with this burden and the insensitivity of the government (towards film fraternity)," said Bhatt.

"I am extremely saddened (with the service tax decision) and we can't take this burden anymore. The war is still on and we are looking at a negotiation with the government. The government has no feelings towards the Indian film fraternity," he added.

Down south, on Jan 7, the leading actors, directors, theatre owners and others went on a hunger-strike in Chennai demanding the service tax be scrapped. Tamil superstar Rajinikanth too joined the day-long protest.

Bhatt feels profits earned by filmdom are akin to tobacco and alcohol industries.

"If we go by the statistics, the amount earned by the films is as high as that off tobacco and alcohol. Ours is a creative team so my request is that to the Government is don't look at us at the same way we are not injurious to health."

In case of strike, which may be called some time next month, there won't be any release during that period.

Director of "Ready", Atul Agnihotri said: "Of course, it's a burden but we are still making films because we don't have a choice. But I am sure many producers are working on this issue and soon there shall be a change."

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