A BRAND NEW MINISTER, THE SAME OLD VOICE
Every time a new minister takes over as the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, we in the industry look up to him with great expectations. It is something that has been happening ever since we have had governments and ministers. There have been any number of governments during the last six and a half decades and every government has had its own I&B Minister, but whatever the government and whoever the minister, nothing good has been really done by any of these ministers for the industry. It is painful to make this observation, but these ministers have never taken the kind of initiatives to bring about any change in the industry, give it some relief from the ever growing burdens it has been tolerating for little or no fault of its own. These ministers seem to be following a set pattern of rules and regulations that were formed in the good old days with apparently no efforts being made to pay attention to the ills and problems being faced by the industry endlessly. A lot was expected when the BJP- led government under the enlightened leadership of Mr. NarendraModi took over in May, 2014. But instead of there being any change in case of the industry, we only saw the new government taking little interest in the many problems faced by the industry.
The achche din promised by the Prime Minister may have come for other industries and other areas and aspects of life, but from the time the government took charge of bringing about rapid development in the country, this one industry of films has only been facing problems which are more than they were during the tenures of the earlier governments. It is during these two years and more that the Modi government is in power that the industry has seen no change in the way the industry is “punished” by various kinds of taxes, the most killing tax being the entertainment tax. It is during this term of the government that the FTII has been facing the kind of crisis it has never faced before, all because of the appointment of one man who the students felt did not have the vision to be the head of an institute like the FTII, as a result of which students had to lose six months and more of their course at the institute. And above all, it has been during this government’s “raj” that the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has been functioning under a chairman who is best known for his own whims and fancies and his now well-known and accepted dictatorial tendencies which has even made the CBFC face the kind of embarrassment it has never faced when a filmmaker dragged it to the Supreme Court which slammed the ways in which the CBFC and its chairman were functioning. This government has passed two budgets, but like all the previous governments it has offered very little or no relief or sops for the industry to find encouragement and prosper in a healthier atmosphere.
It was also strange to see one senior minister handling two very vital portfolios, the finance ministry and the I&B ministry. It is difficult even for the most brilliant minister to do complete justice to one ministry, how could one minister do justice to two very different ministries?
The Prime Minister felt the need for a reshuffling of ministers in his cabinet and it was this reshuffle that has brought in Mr. M. Venkaiah Naidu who was the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs as the union minister with independent charge of the I&B ministry. It is not easy to justify the Prime Minister’s decision to bring in the new minister, but it is certainly difficult to know how a minister who was in charge of matters like Parliamentary Affairs was considered good enough to be the new I&B minister. And as we said earlier, the coming in of Mr. Naidu also brought in a great deal of expectations, but the new minister showed what he had in mind for the future of the film industry when he addressed his first meeting after taking over and spoke to the members of the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce.
In his hard- hitting speech he like all his predecessors also came down heavily and expressed his concern over violence and obscenity becoming an increasing part of Indian cinema, and he urged filmmakers to come out with more development and peace-oriented scripts. He said while the music, lyrics and literature in earlier films used to be “wonderful” and “beautiful”, but the standards were slowly coming down which according to him was one of the reasons why films were being rejected by the audience.
The minister also told the filmmakers that violence, obscenity, vulgarity, and vulgar double-meaning, dialogue were becoming part of certain sections of cinema – which was not a healthy thing.
He further told filmmakers that they must self-censor films to avoid doing injustice to society by showing such scenes and “spoiling children”. These were the same observations made by previous ministers, but couldn’t the minister have done his home work and talked about the growing problems faced by the industry which have led to the shutting down of several film production companies, couldn’t he talk about his government considering giving incentives and initiatives to the industry which is reeling and staggering under so many different problems, couldn’t he promise filmmakers to make a round of “the largest industry in the world”, know the root problems, meet leaders of the industry and give them a patient hearing?. If there is any minister who can take the industry seriously and not just promise but do something concrete and fulfilling for the industry, it is Mr. Naidu. You have taken your very first few steps as the new minister, Mr. Minister. You have the chance of redeeming the promises countless ministers like you have made and survived even as the industry has been struggling to survive. Wouldn’t you like to be remembered as the first minister to take the most neglected industry which pays the highest taxes seriously and take steps that will make the industry put its trust in you for the present and remember you as the minister who understood the way this industry works and found ways of making life and their business better than the dark valleys it has been passing through even though the outside world sees and perceives it as a world where all that matters is only the glamour, the glitz and the glory. Listen to the pleas of this industry which has been neglected all these years, Mr. Minister and show it a ray of hope for the future. You have the power, you can do it, because if you don’t do it now all the ministers to come will continue to neglect this industry which many believe is a paradise on earth, but hardly realize what lies beyond the paradise it seems to be.