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Work resumes in Tamil film industry after strike

Mercury becomes the first film to be released after the strike, which lasted for nearly 48 days.

Manigandan KR

Work in the Tamil film industry began on Friday as announced by the Tamil Film Producers' Council (TFPC) on Wednesday.

It may be recalled that the entire industry had come to a standstill since 1 March after the TFPC announced a strike in support of various demands, including a reduction in the prices of Virtual Print Fee (VPF) being charged by Digital Service Providers (DSPs).

On Friday, the move to stall new releases came to an end with the release of director Karthik Subbaraj's film Mercury. There had been no new releases in the state for 48 days (since 1 March 2018) in the wake of the strike by the TFPC. Film production had stopped from 18 March onward.

The strike came to an end with the government-mediated tripartite talks, between the producers, theatre owners and digital service providers, proving to be successful.

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Actor Vishal Krishna, who addressed a press conference to give out details of the issues that had been resolved in the talks, said, "At the outset, I would like to thank chief minister Edappadi Palanisamy. I would also wish to express my gratitude to ministers KC Veeramani and Kadambur Raju who mediated the talks. At this point, I would like to thank the workers of the FEFSI and its president RK Selvamani. I also wish to thank the producers without whose support this victory would not be possible. Understanding the cause, they supported the protest and as a result, we have achieved this success."

The actor went on to list a number of issues that had been resolved during the marathon meeting that was held between the three sides on Wednesday.

The actor said that the prices of VPF had been reduced for E cinemas (those that do not have advanced projectors). It had been brought down from Rs22,000 to Rs10,000 for a full run, he said, pointing out that the move would now help producers make a saving of around 30% to 40%.

The cost of VPF in E cinema would be Rs250 as opposed to the earlier Rs290 per show.

The actor said that the government had also accepted the TFPC's request to take steps to do away with the online booking charge of Rs30, which theatre owners were charging audiences over and above the ticket cost, which by itself was expensive as it now included GST and the local body entertainment tax.

He said he expected the government to come up with an option through which the public would be able to make online bookings at a very nominal price.

"Simultaneously, the Tamil Film Producers Council too will have its own server through which the public can book film tickets online at a nominal cost of Rs4 per transaction," he said.

Vishal Krishna also pointed out that the TFPC had come up with three different film categories — A, B and C. Film producers could choose the category under which they wanted their films to be released. Prices of tickets of films in category A would be very nominal, while the prices of tickets of films in Category B would be moderate and the prices of films in Category C would be as per the present ticket rates. Theatres cannot charge more than what has been fixed as the upper limit for tickets by the government.

This move, Vishal Krishna said, will help both producers and viewers. "When a film is released, it has to be released in small towns and villages too. People in these places are in no position to pay Rs150 per ticket to watch a film. Therefore, a small producer, who says that he is okay with say, charging Rs50 per ticket, can choose to release his film under Category A. This way, both the producer and the audience benefit."

"If the film does well in the first week and if there is a demand, the producer is free to change the category in the second week by making a relevant representation to the Producers' Council," he added.

The actor also said that from 1 June, all theatres in the state would have to computerise the ticketing process. The government, he said, was in the process of passing an order to this effect. This would make data pertaining to theatre occupancy transparent, he said, pointing out that earlier, theatre owners would under-report occupancy to deny producers their share of the profit.

The Producers' Council president also said that the TFPC, would, from now on, schedule the release of films. This scheduling process will help avoid unnecessary confusion.

Vishal Krishna also said that the TFPC would soon be holding a meeting with all the actors in the Tamil film industry to discuss the issue of pay cuts. The results of the strike have gladdened the hearts of producers and the average film buff, who thinks the TFPC's move is a step in the right direction.

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