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PM Narendra Modi’s decision to abolish Rs 500 and Rs 1000 rupee notes to curb the flow of black money has been lauded and appreciated by one and all in Bollywood. The decision which became effective from the midnight of November 9 effectively repeals Rs 500 and Rs 1000 rupee denomination notes as legal tender. To find out what implications this financial decision will have on Bollywood in the longer run, we spoke to leading film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi.
Said Akshaye, “The impact will be on two levels – micro and macro. For the films that are coming up in the near future, we need to understand the pattern of audience living beyond the metros. In places like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Pune, Kolkata, people are very comfortable with the idea of using plastic money and online transactions. But there is a much bigger population that goes beyond the metros who are still not very comfortable with the idea of using plastic money or booking movie tickets through Book My Show. There is still a huge population that goes to the bank, withdraw money and pay by cash. There are towns like Kanpur and Satara where people still go to a bank at the beginning of every month to withdraw a portion of their salary for their monthly expenses which they pay out in cash. So for people in these towns to go for movie or dinner with family while not being able to use the denominations of 500 and 1000 becomes bit of a dicey situation. Because if you are going out, if you are spending a few thousand rupees how many notes of hundred will you carry in your wallet? So it becomes a bit inconvenient. It’s not wrong or bad but just a tad inconvenient for the moment. This process has to work simultaneously with the process of educating people particularly staying beyond the metros about the usage of electronic money and online transactions. As and when that can be done I am sure over time things will become pretty smooth and stable.”
As far as Bollywood is concerned, Akshaye sees the decision impacting the industry folks positively in a big way as he believes it will go a long way in reducing bribes and plugging corruption. “The impact on the industry will be a very positive one. Any producer who is shooting is bothered by various entities like associations, organisations, political outfits who come and harrow them for bribes. Let’s say a producer is shooting at film city and one of these organisations come and disrupt the shoot and ask for a bribe and the only thing that the producer can say is, ‘Bhai tu card se lega ya cheque se lega.’ It’s a very good thing where all these bribes and other loopholes have been plugged. You can’t pay a bribe using hundred rupee notes. All these illegal things have been plugged overnight.”
While black money and its perpetrators will now be pushed against the wall, Akshaye believes black money was effectively pushed out of Bollywood the day corporates entered. “With the advent of the corporates coming into the industry, a lot of black money transactions that used to be there ceased to exist about a decade ago. Earlier in the 80s, when all sorts of anti-national entities used to fund films, the element of black money used to be there. But with corporates coming in, all that is now a thing of the past. Obviously, a Fox doesn’t go to a star with a suitcase full of money. 99 percent of money that circulates in the industry used in production and sanctioning of films is money from the studios which is legal white money.”
Commending the PM for his brave initiative, Akshaye said, “It’s a great scenario. In the long run, this is the best thing that could have happened to all of us. This step will only push producers and vendors to try and include all daily wage workers into the financial scheme of things and will ensure better financial inclusion, more transparency and more money coming back into the economy.”