Modi government’s new found love for Indian Cinema

A still from the movie 'Uri'youtube/RSVP Movies

  • The stand-in finance minister Piyush Goyal took time in the middle of his speech to praise a recent blockbuster, Uri.
  • “Single window clearance for ease of shooting films, available only to foreigners, is now going to be made available to Indian filmmakers as well,” Goyal said.
  • Modi government’s affair with Bollywood is a recent phenomenon.
Budget 2019 had, possibly, the maximum reference to Indian showbiz of all the finance bills presented in the country’s history.

To start with, the stand-in finance minister Piyush Goyal took time in the middle of his speech to praise a recent blockbuster, Uri, which glorified the Narendra Modi government’s decision to conduct ‘surgical strikes’ into Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir.

He then went on to solicit Bollywood’s love with a change in rule, which should not have been there in the first place. “Single window clearance for ease of shooting films, available only to foreigners, is now going to be made available to Indian filmmakers as well,” Goyal said.

And that was not all. He also said that “regulatory provisions will rely more 14 on self-declaration. We will also introduce anti-camcording provisions in the Cinematograph Act to control the menace of piracy.” Goyal also highlighted how the government pushed for a lower tax on cinema tickets through the GST (goods and services tax) Council.

Let’s look at how the relationship has evolved in the last four and a half years.

It’s showtime

Modi government’s affair with Bollywood is a recent phenomenon.

In fact, in the first three years of the regime, the government’s relationship with the film industry was rather tenuous. One of the government’s appointees, the former chairman of the film certification board, the CBFC, Pahlaj Nihalani was a big thorn in the flesh for the country’s film industry.

He infamously took the moral high ground and censored multiple films, most famously Anurag Kashyap’s Udta Punjab. Even after the Bombay High Court struck down the CBFC demand for cuts in the film, Nihalani said , “the door for films with obscene and vulgar content.”

Despite the fans’ anger and the industry’s anguish, he remained the chief of the ‘censor board’, as CBFC is colloquially known in India, for 2 years, while he intermittently flattered the government and the prime minister.

Not just the working professionals in Bollywood, the government faced a severe backlash from the students of cinema too. In 2017, Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment as the chairman of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), triggered a huge uproar. Students went on a protest, that even turned violent for a bit, saying Chauhan was qualified to lead a reputed institution like the FTII.

The students, who alleged that Chauhan’s appointment was a political move and not based on merit, found vindication when Chauhan said, “I am a BJP soldier and I will do whatever is assigned any duty assigned to me.”

However, things turned for the better in 2018. Firstly, the new CBFC chief, the accomplished writer and lyricist Prasoon Joshi, has cannily handled the two divergent groups-- the government and the film industry.

Secondly, some members of the film industry also served the government well. Two films released towards the end of 2018 were just what prime minister wanted, months before seeking re-election.

The first film, The Accidental Prime Minister, was based on a revelatory book about all the corruption scandals of the previous government led by the Congress. It was the country’s first biopic made on a living prime minister, and showed the Manmohan Singh administration in poor light, and deservedly so, as many would argue. However, that government was voted out in 2014.

The other movie of 2018, which helped the cause of the Narendra Modi government, was the slick story of border conflict, Uri. The movie was a hit,and it allowed the government to revive nationalistic sentiments that are directly proportional to the amount of hate for Pakistan.

A little gratitude for pliable filmmakers was probably in order. Who knows, others may fall in line too.

See also :

Budget 2019 Highlights and News Live: Proposal: no tax on income up to ₹5 lakhs
Explained: The Modi government’s pension scheme for informal workers
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