THE AKHILESH Yadav government has suffered a revenue loss of over Rs 14.11 crore for declaring 24 films free of entertainment tax during its tenure.
Two films, Bajrangi Bhaijaan and PK, turned out to be the biggest culprits with tax losses amounting to Rs 2.5 crore and Rs 2 crore, respectively.
According to the information obtained by The Indian Express under the Right To Information Act, two more films this month have been exempted from paying tax.
Significantly, while the state government had been declaring films tax-free through policies it has already put in place for this purpose, on at least seven occasions, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s discretion became the sole reason.
At other times, announcements for tax-free films came shortly after the filmmakers and actors either met the CM in person or praised the Uttar Pradesh government’s efforts towards attracting producers and directors to shoot their films in the state.
The chief minister’s latest announcement came on January 14 when he declared Chalk n Duster tax-free during a programme called Jashn-e-Kaifi Azmi, held in Lucknow, where actor Shabana Azmi — who acts in the film — was present.
Akhilesh also declared Bajirao Mastani tax-free a few days after actor Ranveer Singh performed at the concluding ceremony of Saifai Mahotsav. Announcement for Dedh Ishqiya, too, had come around the time actor Madhuri Dixit had performed at the event in 2013-14.
Officials said the government’s policy allows for tax exemption if a film has been made or adopted by the Children’s Film Society, declared best feature or children film by the Union government, won awards at an international film festival, is a documentary made by Films Division of India, has family planning as its subject matter, or has been shot in Uttar Pradesh.
But what gives the government a perpetual say is the rule that a film can be declared tax-free if it finds the subject matter in “public interest”, said Additional Entertainment Tax Commissioner R P Singh.
Among the 26 films that the government has, during its nearly four-year-long tenure, declared tax-free, four of them — Gattu, Krishna Aur Kans, Two Little Indians and Bhoothnath Returns — had children as their target audience.
Eight others — Dedh Ishqiya, Ya Rab, Tevar, Katiyabaaz, Jaanisaar, Masaan, Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho and Ishq Ke Parindey — were shot in Uttar Pradesh.
While the government has not made public the reason for each film’s tax exemption, according to statements released by it, Bajrangi Bhaijaan was declared tax-free because it contained the “message of humanity”. Hamari Adhuri Kahani “depicts the inner conflict and empowerment of women” while Mardani dealt with “sexual crimes against women and girls”.
Drishyam was exempted because it “depicts the story of a man facing odds to protect his family”. PK, on the other hand, made it to the list after Akhilesh was reportedly left “impressed by its message”, said a tweet from the Chief Minister’s Office.
Films were also exempted from paying tax after those associated with the project met the chief minister. These cases include Kabir Khan (Bajrangi Bhaijaan), Anurag Kashyap (Masaan), Kumar Mangat and Ajay Devgn (Drishyam), Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Ketan Mehta (Manjhi The Mountain Man), Imran Hashmi and Mahesh Bhatt (Hamari Adhuri Kahani), Vinay Tiwari (Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho) and Boney Kapoor (Tevar).
The state government has made several efforts in the recent past to attract filmmakers to shoot their films in Uttar Pradesh by promising them subsidy.
The government now plans to develop two film cities at an estimated investment of Rs 650 crore in the state.