Karan Johar & team’s multiple chit-chats with Modi have paid off in Budget 2019

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Image: Twitter/Karan Johar
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Narendra Modi’s been tapping India’s many big and small film industries constantly over the past few months. These industries, in turn, have been churning out a number of political movies of late.

This deeper engagement between the country’s political and entertainment spheres was reflected in the annual budget this time.

In his budget speech (pdf) today (Feb. 01), interim finance minister Piyush Goyal gave India’s entertainment industry a cause for celebration. “Single window clearance for ease of shooting films, available only to foreigners, is now going to be made available to Indian filmmakers as well,” Goyal announced. Now, film shoots across Indian locations can look forward to swift and hassle-free clearances.

The Hindi film industry, for one, will welcome the move.

In mid-December, Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar, along with actors Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, and others, were part of a delegation that met Modi in Mumbai. Their main agenda was to discuss the Indian entertainment industry’s global soft-power “and how it would be wonderful if the government could encourage this industry in very tangible ways to be able to grow and thrive,” said producer Siddharth Roy Kapur, who was also present.

Back in October, producer Ritesh Sidhwani, director Rajkumar Hirani, actor Aamir Khan, and others, too, met Modi. On Jan. 10, actors Varun Dhawan, Ranveer Singh, Rajkummar Rao, Alia Bhatt, Bhumi Pednekar, Ayushmann Khurrana, and producer Ekta Kapoor, accompanied by Johar once again, met Modi in New Delhi.

Modi himself has been Bollywood-ising his politics. For instance, the success of the recently released film Uri, based on the surgical strike India carried out against targets inside Pakistan in 2016, was expected to rub off on the prime minister. At least on one occasion, he was reported to have used a catchy line from the movie: “How’s the josh? (How’s the spirit?).” Indeed, Goyal himself referred to Uri in his speech.

When announcing the budget measure, Goyal noted that the government wanted to promote the industry since it is a major employment generator. Indeed, by 2017, India’s film industry employed nearly 250,000 people, up significantly from 160,800 four years earlier, according to consultancy Deloitte.

The government is also taking steps to curb piracy—a much-needed move considering India loses $2.5 billion to online movie piracy annually. Anti-camcording provisions will be introduced in the Cinematograph Act as well, said Goyal.