Thaana sertha kozhappam!

Statutory warning: No animal was harmed in the making of this report. But there are a couple of tasteless jokes on Simbu.

There is a crisis in Tamil film industry that there has been no new releases for the last two weeks and they have been re-releasing films like Vedhalam and Mersal. This makes it clear that there is a bigger crisis in Tamil society as it comprises people who may want to watch Vedhalam or Mersal again!

In a bid to a get clear understanding of the various issues plaguing the Tamil filmdom, I spoke to a few industry people who consider themselves to be experts, and here broadly is what is bothering the various stakeholders:

  • The producers are upset with the Digital Service Providers (DSPs) for steadily increasing the cost of screening.
  • The theatre owners are unhappy with the government for 8% LGET (Local Government Entertainment Tax) and  28% GST.
  • Politicians aren’t too pleased with the fact the film industry is emerging to be a kind of employment exchange for politics.
  • The public are unhappy that Simbu continues to get cast in films.

The last problem is, of course, the most serious. But the Tamil film industry, getting its priorities wrong as ever, thinks the DSPs are the biggest headache now.

Like everything else around us, film projection in cinema halls too has become totally digital, and there is now no room for movies being delayed because of non arrival of the reel box. But movies will continue to be delayed due to non arrival of digital signal.

As it happened, I encountered one not long ago at a multiplex in Chennai. Apparently there was some issue in digital transmission when the film was to re-begin after the interval break, and an error message  kept popping up on the screen. If it were in a single-screen theatre I am sure there would have been jeers of protest and catcalls of derision. But since it was a multiplex, people were much more orderly and patient. Of course, it could also have been down to the fact that the mundane  error message was several times more interesting and believable than anything that we had seen on the screen pre-interval. The film, needless to say, was Suriya’s Thaana Serndha Kootam.

Getting back to the DSPs, previously, producers made copies of the film reel and sent them to theatres.  This was a costly and laborious affair.  But thanks to the advent of digitalisation, making copies has become very easy. And things —  this is the beauty  of most technological solutions — continue to remain a costly and laborious affair.

This is because DSPs  charge something called VPF, which anyone with even a brief understanding of the film industry will tell you is some sort of abbreviation.

Okay, we got that figured out. VPF is Visual Projection Fee and  the DSPs naturally charge this on the producers for release in every screen.  But the rising VPF alone is not a cause of trouble for the producers.

In earlier times, the producers made copies of films and reached them to the theatres, and the upkeep of the projectors was the responsibility of the theatres.

Now in the digital era: The producers, through the DSPs, reach the film to the theatres, and the upkeep of the digital projectors is the responsibility of — plot twist  — the producers.

Why is the onus now on the producers and not the theatre owners, you may ask. Because most theatres now generally confine themselves to the responsibility of charging upwards of Rs. 150 for a small cup of some damn cola drink.

Further, the DSPs run ads on the digital prints, and the revenue from the ads are split between … the producer and the DSPs? No, the DSPs and the theatre owners.

But why?  Because producers have the brains of radish. At any rate,  if they were really of the thinking type they wouldn’t be making movies in an industry that also employs Simbu.

So as things stand now, the pause button has been pressed on new film releases, shoots, pre or post-production works on movies, audio launches, press conferences etc. Only some multiplexes are running shows of old some films

Who pays the VPF on these films? I don’t know.  But I am sure many of us will be ready to cough up the VPF for Mersal and Vedhalam. The VPF here being Visual Prevention Fee so that nobody has to watch those two films ever again.