It is merely an administrative strategy document that lacks vision for the promotion of the film industry. It is not a film policy but rather a secondary tourism policy.
No doubt the film policy of Jammu and Kashmir-2021 after its fanfare launch on August 5 by LG Shri Manoj Sinha in the presence of Bollywood actor Amir Khan and filmmaker Raj Kumar Hirani at SKICC is a major development from a socio-cultural perspective to bring the scenic beauty of the valley, cultural ethos, and pilgrimage circuit on the big screen again, but the objectives set in it can’t be achieved by mere tax incentives, sops, and subsidies. It is merely an administrative strategy document and not a policy document that lacks the vision for the promotion of the film industry, tourism sector, and engaging of youth. It is not a film policy rather a secondary tourism policy.
With a promise to create a vibrant ecosystem in J&K to promote it as an ideal destination for all those associated with film-making and other related sectors, the policy promises subsidies in abundance. Whether tax soaps and subsidies are the only strategies to attract filmmakers to shoot in the UT? How tax incentives to rich Bollywood filmmakers and producers will help in developing our local film industry? In the absence of film and drama schools and vocational/optional courses in UG and PG courses, how the mismatch in the local talent and service providers and the professional industry will be bridged?
The policy has accorded the status of Industry to the film sector in Jammu & Kashmir which shows a structural shift of the government towards it. A structure in the form of Jammu and Kashmir Film Development Council (JKFDC) will be set up to look for all matters in the film sector. The policy has also employed the existing institutions like EMMRC, Kashmir University, and FTII, Pune for offering their services, structures, and expertise in this realm. The promising thing about the policy is that it envisages the setting up of film and drama schools in the UT to impart instructions and practical training in fine arts, acting, directing, and other crafts of filmmaking. As the policy has converted the film sector into industry, it is entitled to enjoy all the tax incentives, sops, and subsidies as provided in the new industrial policy in addition to those mentioned in the policy itself. Engaging local talents in films will set a new trend in the UT and open new career opportunities for local talents. The re-opening of closed cinema halls, upgrading the existing ones, and encouraging setting up of multiplexes by offering a slew of subsidies and tax incentives needs collaboration from civil society, private sector, and NGOs to revive the entertainment industry in the UT.
Range of Subsidies
The film policy offers a wide range of subsidies:
1. For the first film, the policy offers a subsidy of up to Rs 1 Cr or 25 percent of the total Cost of Production (COP), whichever is lower, if a minimum of 50 percent of total shooting days is shot in the UT. Similarly, up to Rs 1.50 Cr or 25 percent of the total Cost of Production (COP), whichever is lower, will be offered as a subsidy if a minimum of 75 percent of total shooting days is shot in the UT.
2. For the second film, the rate of subsidies offered will be up to Rs. 1.25 Cr or 25 percent of the total Cost of Production (COP), whichever is lower, if a minimum of 50 percent of total shooting days is shot in the UT. This rate will be up to Rs. 1.75 Cr or 25 percent of the total Cost of Production (COP), whichever is lower, if a minimum of 75 percent of total shooting days is shot in the UT.
3. For the third film, subsidy up to Rs. 1.50 Cr or 25 percent of the total Cost of Production (COP), whichever is lower, and up to Rs. 2.00 Cr or 25 percent of the total Cost of Production (COP), whichever is lower, if a minimum of 50 percent and 75 percent of total shooting days, respectively, are shot in the UT.
An additional subsidy of Rs. 50.00 lakh is to be given to such a film of each category (first, second, third, and subsequent film) which shall be decided by the JKFDC, on a case-to-case basis. On producing the film on the story or script based on the UT of J&K, with a view of Special Branding (J&K Specific Film), a special grant of 50 percent of the Cost of Production of film or Rs. 5.00 Cr, whichever is less, shall be provided. The JKFDC shall decide on such subsidies on a case-to-case basis.
The Policy has a separate provision of subsidy for films produced by national or international award-winning producers or directors after receiving subsidy on the basis of earlier films produced in the UT. In this case, the maximum amount of subsidy ranges from Rs 1.75 Cr to Rs 3.25 Cr as per the status of the shooting of second, third, or successive films in the UT.
Similarly, an exhaustive provision of subsidies for film, TV show, web series, original show of OTT (Over The Top) platform, and documentary films to be shot in J&K (regarding permission fee) up to Rs 1 Cr has been spelled out in the Policy.
Films based on patriotic, child, women development themes too would be offered subsidies up to Rs 50 lakh.
The policy rationale for offering generous subsidies is that if J&K is prominently featured in a feature film with more than 75 percent shooting days in the UT, then the tourism sector of the UT gets the direct benefit. No doubt the portrayal in films may lead to an instant spike in the tourist traffic but the political situation is the factor that visitors look for before planning a trip to Jammu and Kashmir.
Development of J&K Film Industry
Unfortunately, the policy document presents a poor analysis and projection of the film industry in Jammu and Kashmir. It has employed Bollywood and South Indian film Industry data and failed to even research out the number of films produced in Jammu and Kashmir. It is not a film policy but rather a secondary tourism policy as the policy rationalises the subsidies that it will result in a huge tourist influx to Jammu and Kashmir. The film policy should have aimed at creating a vision of developing the competitive film industry in the UT, setting a perspective plan with budgetary support for developing infrastructure, machinery, technologies, and education, entering into collaborations with the film academies and institutions, and the industry in India and the world, and incentivising local filmmakers and production houses. We must produce quality cinema to be consumed locally, nationally, and internationally. The focus should have been on developing a strong local film industry by extending tax incentives, sops, and subsidies. However, the extension of these benefits to Bollywood filmmakers and directors will not help us in developing our industry and will create further transfer of purchasing power and wealth from Jammu and Kashmir to other states.
Promoting Local Talent
Engaging local talent in films that filmmakers are shooting in Jammu and Kashmir is incentivised and that will create many career opportunities for the local youth to showcase their talents to the world. An additional subsidy of Rs. 50 lakh for a film with a cast of minimum of 5 Primary local artists of J&K (who are featuring the as prominent characters as per the story) or 50 percent of the actual payment of artists, whichever is less, is to be given to the filmmakers. Similarly, the policy offers a minimum additional subsidy of Rs. 10 lakhs or 50 percent of the actual payment of artists, whichever is less, for a film with a cast of a minimum of 5 Secondary artists of J&K (other than the main character being shown prominently as per the story).
The policy aims to transform Jammu and Kashmir into a unique film destination that should have been one of the objectives of the Jammu and Kashmir tourism policy. There are many crafts, trades, arts, science, and technologies required for establishing a competitive J&K film industry, and nothing promising in this regard is offered in the policy document. A need for a separate film policy will be felt soon when big filmmakers will come to shoot in Kashmir as they need many local services that secondary tourism policy will not offer.
Hamid Rather is a writer, journalist, and policy analyst from Jammu and Kashmir. Blog: https://hamidrather.wordpress.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/hamidrather123?s=08