Here is a blockbuster revelation: Karnataka spent Rs 34.9 crore in a span of four years to give subsidies to 349 Kannada films, but nearly half of these films never saw the light of the day, leading to wastage of public money.
As per the Kannada Film Policy 2011, films that “intend to spread good messages” in addition to children films, stories prior to independence or based on literary works receive Rs 10 lakh subsidy from the government.
But sources in the film industry say the subsidy process is mired in corruption, with a chunk of the money reaching the pockets of middlemen. Further, several people made films just to get the subsidy money with no intention of releasing these films.
A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report looking into the initiatives of the Department of Kannada & Culture shows that between 2013 and 2016, the government gave subsidies to 349 films under the “good messages” category alone, of which 130 films never came out.
A Kannada film director, requesting anonymity, explained how the subsidy was being misused.
“There are middlemen who promise approval from the selection panel. Of the Rs 10 lakh, they usually demand Rs 3 lakh. If the filmmakers are working under monetary constraint, they agree to these demands, with the hope of getting whatever little that comes their way.”
The subsidy is approved only after the censor clearance, in spite of which there is no guarantee that the films released, sources said.
Speaking to DH, Karnataka Film Chambers of Commerce president Jairaj DR said they had urged the government to include representatives from the film chambers in the selection panel to make the process more objective.
“The film chambers has industry experts. Including them will ensure transparency,” he said.
Industry experts also believed that the parameters for selection was vague, as anyone could claim their film had a “good message”. Some in the industry felt that the subsidy wasn’t serving any purpose.
Filmmaker Aravind Kaushik said the process could be regulated by setting up a screening committee ensuring that only films with a potential to be released would get the subsidy. “Even better, I personally feel that they should do completely do away with the subsidy,” said Kaushik.
Theatreperson Prakash Belawadi, too, felt it was pointless to fund the production of such films.
“Government funding of film production by ‘subsidy’ becomes irrelevant if those films don’t get a public release. On whose behalf was the money spent? If the public can’t see those films, what is the point?” he said.
“The government should spend money to facilitate the building of better screen spaces that are affordable and accessible to the public. The government should perhaps even think of setting up an online platform.”