In recent times, the global cinematic industry has witnessed strikes organized by Hollywood professionals, highlighting issues such as low remuneration and harsh working conditions. However, few may know that Bollywood itself has a history of taking to the streets for a just cause. In 1986, the Hindi film industry united against the incumbent government in Maharashtra, protesting against heavy taxation and fighting for their rights. This article explores the remarkable moment when Bollywood stars and industry professionals joined forces to demand justice.
The Unlikely Cause
Mainstream Bollywood stars often face criticism for their lack of active involvement in social issues. However, this was not always the case. In October 1986, the film industry stood together to protest against the exorbitant taxation on film tickets imposed by the Maharashtra government. This unprecedented unity showcased their commitment to fighting for their rights.
The film industry’s strike on October 10, 1986, was triggered by the demand for relaxation in the 177% state surcharge on tickets sold by Maharashtra cinemas. It was a rare instance of the film fraternity locking horns with the ruling government for more affordable amenities—an unusual but justified cause.
The protests gained momentum with the active participation of leading producers, directors, technicians, junior artistes, and studio workers. Over 125 vehicles filled with industry professionals hit the streets, showcasing the scale of one of the largest protests in Bollywood’s history.
The strike went beyond taxation issues. Bollywood also demanded the abolition of the 4% state sales tax imposed on film production, as well as measures to combat growing piracy in the market. This demonstrated the industry’s commitment to protecting its interests and preserving creativity.
Stars on the Streets
The unity of Bollywood was evident when iconic figures like Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Vinod Khanna, Sunil Dutt, Sanjay Dutt, Dharmendra, Anil Kapoor, Rakesh Roshan, Smita Patil, and Hema Malini came together for the protests. Vintage footage from that time captures their fervent speeches and interviews, advocating for the quick abolition of the new rules.
During the demonstrations, stars like Rajesh Khanna, Sunil Dutt, and Dilip Kumar delivered passionate speeches about the significance of culture and the importance of protecting it. Their words emphasized the need to recognize and appreciate the contributions of the film industry to Indian society.
After six hours of negotiation between the industry’s representatives, including Sunil Dutt and Amitabh Bachchan, who were both Members of Parliament at the time, an understanding was reached with Maharashtra’s then Chief Minister S.B. Chavan. This marked a significant turning point and a triumph for Bollywood’s fight for its rights.
The 1986 protests by Bollywood against heavy taxation and unfair regulations showcased the industry’s unity and determination to protect its interests. It was a rare moment when the Indian cinema, particularly Bollywood, fought for what it deserved. This historical event serves as a reminder of the industry’s ability to rally together for important causes and its potential to bring about positive change.
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