The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Snub to showbiz irks Buddha

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Thursday expressed displeasure over the refusal of nationalised banks to sanction loans to Tollywood or theatre hall-owners, despite the government having acknowledged film-making and producing as an industry.

“Our government has, for a long time, recognised film producing as an industry. But it’s a matter of great regret that banks in our state often refuse to sanction loans to hall-owners for renovation,” Bhattacharjee told the Assembly during a question-answer session.

The chief minister added that he had taken up the matter with the governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and urged him to instruct the nationalised banks in Bengal to consider such loan applications. Bhattacharjee said there were about 700 cinemas in the state and many were in a deplorable condition.

The loan applications of several hall-owners have not been entertained. “Banks are ready to grant loans for the construction of godowns, but not willing to sanction loans to hall-owners, which is preventing renovation. The reason behind this is unknown to me,” said Bhattacharjee.

Reiterating the government’s commitment towards the entertainment industry, the chief minister said private parties were welcome to construct multiplexes to benefit Bengali cinema. “We will exempt taxes for four years to encourage such private parties. But the government is not considering any proposal for providing land or infrastructure to any organisation for setting up film cities in and around Calcutta,” he clarified.

Admitting that Bengali films were not being able to widen their market, Bhattacharjee added: “The government can provide infrastructure, but we can’t take the responsibility of making good films. That is up to the producers, story-writers and those concerned with the industry.”

Replying to a question from Saugata Roy of the Trinamul Congress, Bhattacharjee said the government had spent Rs 50 lakh for the recent film festival and earned Rs 6.83 lakh from ticket sales. About 35,000 viewers had watched the films during the festival.

The chief minister took the opportunity to announce that the government was ready to allow private organisations and film associations to run the festival in future. “We are getting more and more sponsors for organising film festivals and this time, too, we got sponsorship from public-sector undertakings, like Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), Indian Oil, Coal India Limited (CIL) and private organisations including Pepsi.”

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