Art of the matter

Art of the matter

Art of the matter

It is said that art and creativity will change society faster than politics. But maybe because change is such a fearsome prospect for many, there have been efforts to clamp down on forms of expression from time immemorial.

On a completely unrelated note, the government decided to impose 18% GST on ticketed performances priced over Rs 250, including local art forms. The move has not gone down well with the artistic community with many voicing their anger.

“The move will ensure that we are in loss even before we make a single rupee,” says Ahmed Shariff, popular standup comedian. “I understand taxation is there for a reason but there should be a reasonable limit for it.”

He goes on to explain,“If a venue manages to get a popular artiste and prices tickets above Rs 250, then they have to pay a hefty amount in tax. If tickets are priced below that, then we make a loss anyway. This move will discourage performers.”Vikram Sridhar agrees. The storyteller, theatre practitioner and co-founder of Tahatto theatre group says “We already pay a percentage to ticketing portals. An increase in taxes, coupled with increasing rentals and logistical expenses, will ensure that not even 50% of the ticket fees comes to us. It is difficult to get sponsors for performance art in small spaces. It will be tough to perform in multiple places.”

Vikram also calls out the arbitrariness in taxing different arts on the same scale. “Each performance is not the same. For example, we are reviving an olden classical form of storytelling and endeavours like these deserve extra encouragement.”

The government’s move has sparked off a slew of online petitions across the country by the performer fraternity that is demanding a reduction or exemption.

In the city, an online campaign started by Jagriti Theatre has garnered thousands of supporters. Ranjan Michael Robinson of ‘The Troopers’ says, “Our payments are in the form of advance and gate sales. GST is affecting the latter. In the shows after the new tax regime was introduced, there has been a drastic cut in our payments. Either the organisers decrease the amount after tax deductions or they put the tax on your head. Either ways, you lose.”

He adds, “The tax filing process is also complicated. Even if we will get a refund from the government, we will have to pay the chartered accountant and all, and that again will cost us.” But while one section is arguing that this move will see a possible drop in footfalls, another section says it will have little impact. “Art will always find takers,” argues Samarth Mamadapur, member of ‘No Treble’. “I don’t think it will cut down on ticket sales. People will always be willing to pay a premium for artistic performances.”

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