‘Godfather’ became ‘Varalaru’. ‘Mass’ became ‘Maasu Engira Masilamani’. Much recently, ‘Power Pandi’ became ‘Pa Pandi’. All because of one reason- tax exemption for films with Tamil titles.
More than a decade ago, the then State government led by M Karunanidhi, passed an order offering full waiver of entertainment tax for films with Tamil titles.
After Jayalalithaa came to power in 2011, the rule was made bit strict, as the government said tax exemption would be given only if a film had a pure Tamil title and also obtained U certificate from the Censor Board.
Hence, in a bid to get tax waiver, filmmakers started ‘loving’ Tamil titles. Also, they subjected themselves to some ‘restrictions’, to get U certificates.
Cut to the present, the Central government’s GST (Goods and Services Tax), which is going to be implemented from July 1, will charge 28 per cent tax on all films, irrespective of language or title.
“GST will not just increase ticket rates, but will also bid adieu to the habit of Tamil titles and conservative content. This has its own set of advantages and disadvantages,” says Vijay Sundar, a film analyst.
Elaborating, he adds: “On the positive side, this will give freedom to filmmakers as they can name the films as they wish. Also, they need not curtail on the content to get U certificate. However on the other hand, the culture of Tamil titles will vanish and there are chances for more violence and romance scenes.”
Already, films have been named ‘Sketch’ (starring Vikram and directed by Vijay Chander), ‘Spy-der’ (starring Mahesh Babu and helmed by A R Murugadoss) and ‘VIP-2’ (starring Dhanush and directed by Soundarya Rajinikanth).
“This will only continue. Already, a recent survey indicates that nearly 50 per cent of Malayalam films released in the last five years had an English title. Don’t get surprised if Kollywood beats this number soon,” Sundar adds.
On the advantages of non-Tamil titles, Sunitha A, a business researcher, says, “these days, language barriers have blurred and many films are being made as multilinguals. So far, the films were given different titles due to tax exemption in Tamil Nadu. However after GST, common English titles will be given to movies, as they will have wider reach among global audiences.”
Meanwhile, the GST is going to have an impact on ticket rates too, as the 28 per cent tax burden is expected to be passed on to the audience. “Tickets are likely to cost Rs 150 plus per head,” sources say.
In yet another development, industry captains and Tamil Nadu government have been urging the Centre to consider bringing down the tax rate. Kamal Haasan has also made a plea. Hope the government accepts the requests.