Mukesh Bhatt meets PM to discuss producers-multiplex tiff

Mumbai, April 13 (IANS) In the wake of the Bollywood producers-multiplex tiff over revenue sharing, filmmaker Mukesh Bhatt met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here Monday to discuss various issues concerning the film industry.

"I met the prime minister today (Monday) and discussed with him various issues that are affecting the industry today," Bhatt, who is the chairman of the United Forum for Bollywood Producers and Distributors, told IANS.

"I told him that Bollywood is the biggest entertainment industry in the world after Hollywood and it also has a major cultural impact in various parts of the world, especially in South East Asia. So, our industry should be looked at by the government carefully," Bhatt said.

"I have requested him to form a dedicated and experienced panel to look into the day-to-day working of the industry and tackle the issues in a legitimate manner without any bias, otherwise the industry would surely be extinct some day, " he said.

As for the prime minister's response Bhatt said: "He was very welcome to the idea. He said he can't do much as of now due to the elections. He said he would 100 percent help us and support us with such a panel if he comes to power. And I hope that happens soon."

Though the point of discussion was primarily the revenue sharing between producers and multiplexes, Bhatt says he wanted to convey to the prime minister the need for government intervention in such matters.

"In the late 1990s, when the film industry was booming and not many people were going to multiplexes, the government came to our rescue by providing a five-year tax holiday. But multiplexes started overcharging people for their own benefit instead of passing on the benefit of the tax holiday to the customers," he said.

Bhatt, who has produced films like "Raaz" and "Raaz-The Mystery Continues", under the banner of Vishesh Films, says it is unreasonable of multiplexes to charge a sum of Rs.300 for a ticket.

"Today, they (multiplexes) are charging as much Rs.300 for a ticket, which is an unreasonable demand from a common man who wants to be entertained. Our complaint is that why should a common man be deprived of going to a cinema hall or seeing a good movie?"

"Such soaring prices are also leading to a rise in piracy. So, there are a whole lot of issues that need to be discussed and there are definitely larger issues than the producer-multiplex strike alone," said Bhatt.

The producer-multiplex tussle started around February. As a result, the producers and distributors forum decided early March not to push any new releases in multiplexes. Producers and distributors had also decided to suspend marketing and distribution of all films that were to release after April 4, 2009.

For now, Bhatt has said their "strike would continue as long as the multiplex owners want it".

"Till then, enjoy the films on single screens," he said.

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