Last week, the GST council decided to increase the threshold limit for tax exemption on tickets for all theatrical performances from Rs 250 to Rs 500. This spells good news for the performing arts community as tickets for music, dance, drama, orchestra and folk performances in any Indian language will only attract GST if they are priced at Rs 500 and above.

Pune Times had earlier reported about a drop in the number of concerts by almost 50 per cent due to the 28 per cent GST on tickets. Owing to the dip in the events, city-based event organisers had also handed over a letter requesting waiver of the GST for classical musical concerts signed by Padma awardees like Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pt Shivkumar Sharma and others, to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley when he was in Pune. Post the revised decision, organisers and artistes are hoping to attract more enthusiast, especially those who had shied away from earlier programmes due to the increased ticket rates.

Surendra Mohite, a classical concert organiser, says, “Classical musical events had gone down by almost 50 per cent. The increase in the threshold limit will at least make some tickets prices affordable for music lovers and ensure good response.”
Echoing similar sentiments, tabla player Jaywant Utpat adds, “I still believe efforts should be made to make Indian classical music (both Hindustani and Carnatic) exempt from GST. Nonetheless, this is a welcome step from the government. Though, it is a partial relief for the music community, it will certainly benefit us in the longer run.”

Considering the Marathi theatre too has its share of problems when it comes to ensuring a good turnout, actor Amey Wagh feels that the increase in the tax exemption limit might help on that front. “It’s a welcome change for sure. For Marathi plays, it is difficult to get people to the theatres. We can do only two shows in a week and if we add GST on the tickets, then the financial planning goes for a toss. When the GST was implemented on tickets for Rs 250, we lost out on a lot of young viewers. It is important to make theatre affordable for the college going audience and I think this move will help in doing that,” he says.

Kushal Khot, founder of Natyasattak Mahotsav, a theatre event, calls this move encouraging and says, “It will help in bringing back the audience we had lost due to the earlier tax structure. For plays, this spells brighter times.”

While the GST council’s decision has given some respite, performing artistes feel that a lot more needs to be done to save folk arts. Dhanashree Heblikar, actor and member of Swatantra Theatre, says, “Theatre is not like movie shows where multiple shows are screened at a single time. Our production expenses are much higher than the collection. This move is encouraging but there is still a long way to go.”

Sitarist Sameep Kulkarni, feels, “Classical arts are not profit making and the government should promote these instead of applying taxes. The increase in the threshold is good as small artistes or organisers can benefit from it. However, it will still affect big events and artistes.”

This decision has at least assured classical dancers a certain level of profit, because they invest a lot in programmes. Hopefully, young dancers can have their shows and do well now.

– Parimal Phadke, Bharatnatyam exponent

As it is there are select viewers for plays. So when tickets costing Rs 250 and above were taxed, many people started comparing the prices to those of movie tickets. This was a setback as it resulted in loss of audience. With the revised tax threshold, we are hoping for better turnout now onwards.

– Sonal Mahajan, actor and co-founder of Pushkar Rangmanch



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