What is the rationale for waiving entertainment tax from the exhibitors of the film Tanhaji but not Chhapaak? Nobody has an answer but officials say that it was an instruction from the chief minister.
Isn’t there a board or a committee to recommend such waivers? Again, officials are not sure. In UP, they said sheepishly, the writ of one man is enough to galvanise the bureaucracy. Why was Chhapaak not considered for the exemption? Again, there are no answers except that Deepika Padukone, who has acted in the film and has also produced it jointly, has fallen foul of the BJP by appearing at JNU and standing silently with the students.
The Ajay Devgn starrer Tanhaji is based on the life of a commander of Chhatrapati Shivaji. But amusingly, while Maharashtra is yet to decide on exempting the film, Uttar Pradesh has rushed into declaring it exempt. Ironically, Chhapaak is described as `UP ki movie’ since the film is based on the real-life story of acid attack victim hailing from the state.
“Chief Minister’s decision shows that this government is anti-women. The state where the acid attack incidents on the women are highest and crimes against women are on the rise, the government plays politics in giving tax concessions to movies. When other states have voluntarily made Chapaak tax free because it sends a loud message about acid attack survivors, the UP government prefers to ignore the plight of these victims,” Shruti Naguvanshi, of People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights said.
The notification to make Tanhaji tax-free was announced on Tuesday morning after the cabinet cleared it in its meeting on Monday evening. The official says that the step was taken after the producer of the film and the actor Ajay Devgan requested the state government to make the film tax-free in the state.
"Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior" is based on the life of Tanaji Malusare, the 17th Century military leader of Chhatrapati Shivaji, founder of the Maratha Empire. The Ajay Devgn starrer details the Battle of Sinhagad that was fought between the Tanaji Malusare, a military commander under Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Uday Singh Bhan for the Kondana Fort.
Tanhaji and Chhapaak were released together on Friday last week. Several states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have declared Chhapaak tax free. In the film, Deepika has portrayed the character Laxmi Agarwal, the acid attack victim.
“Can you believe a state where acid attack survivors have set up a café and refused to buckle under societal pressure, who have picked up the threads of life bravely, the government here has refused to recognise the courage and the hard work of these women,” Madhu Agarwal, an activist associated with AIDWA said.
The acid attack victims operate Sheroes Hangouts in Lucknow and Agra. In one of these outlets, Laxmi Agarwal met Meghna Gulzar and the idea of Chhapaak took shape, which is why it is known as UP’s film.
Meena, one of the acid attack victims, said this is disappointing to know that the Government has not made the film Chhapaak tax free in UP. “By declaring it tax-free, the government would have sent out a message that it is with us. Because we know that last year, the government was very close to closing down Sheroes in Lucknow but at the last-minute government withdrew its decision”, she said.
The acid attack on women is very frequent. As per National Crime Bureau between 2014 and 2018, there have been 1,483 victims of acid attacks in the country. Around 32 per cent of them, the highest, is reported from Uttar Pradesh.