The Tamil film industry ground to a halt on Monday as prominent actors, producers, directors and other stakeholders, representing various organisations, observed fast, urging the Central government to rollback a 12.36 per cent service tax levied on them since July last.

Screening of films across the State was suspended from 8 am to 5 pm. Film shootings also stood cancelled during the period.

Speakers at the fast, including Rajinikanth, warned that the new tax had adversely affected the industry and could even lead to tax evasion and eventually growth of black money. “They must be aware of this trend. I hope that the Central government rolls back this service tax.”

Several actors who spoke at the Valluvar Kottam, the venue for the fast, faulted the government for treating film industry like other industries.

They pointed out that there was no guarantee that actors would get work throughout the year. Having already levied various taxes on the sector, including an entertainment tax, the steep service tax should not come as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

South Indian Artistes Association president and MLA R. Sarath Kumar, referring to the government exempting exhibitors and distributors, said the entire film industry must be treated as “one family” and be exempted from service tax. Actor and television producer Radhika Sarath Kumar said not all actors had the fame and the wealth to bear additional financial burden. In fact, a majority of actors had very average means of livelihood.

Prominent personalities at the fast included actors Vijay, Suriya, Prabhu, Sathyaraj, Vivek, ‘Kovai’ Sarala, Manjula, Sneha, directors Bharathiraja, K. Bhagyaraj, S.A. Chandrasekar and exhibitor ‘Abirami’ Ramanathan.

At the end of the fast, all participating-associations signed a memorandum to be submitted to Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram at the earliest.