Stub out smoking ban, says Bollywood
Live Punjab News Service
Mumbai -- Bollywood is more amused than angry at a proposed ban on smoking in films with Irrfan Khan dismissing the issue, Madhur Bhandarkar asking "how can smoking be controlled" and Rahul Bose calling the move "infantile".
"Maqbool" star Irrfan said: "Smoking should be curbed at all costs. But whether smoking is shown in our films has never been a serious issue for me. It's like trying to nurture the leaves of a tree without caring about the roots."
Bhandarkar said: "How can there be such a drastically uniform code about smoking? Even if an adult certificate is implemented properly, what about DVDs, satellite television, cable channels? There're so many avenues for our films...how can smoking be controlled in all of them?"
"And what about Hollywood films? There're two English releases every Friday. Are we going to stop Brad Pitt from smoking? Our heroes have been holding cigarettes since time immemorial. Ashok Kumar looked so stylish smoking in 'Kismet'! No one is saying smoking is good, but let's not be carried away," Bhandarkar, who made films like "Corporate" and "Page Three", told IANS.
Newcomer Sammir Dattani said: "I'm 24 and I'm certainly not going to start smoking just because Shah Rukh Khan does so in 'Don'. It's absurd to think movies influence your lifestyle and habits. For an earlier generation it may have been cool to watch Amitabh Bachchan with a cigar in 'Don' and to take up smoking because the superhero did it. For our generation, health is wealth. And to make wealth, we need our health. And we don't need statutory warnings to tell us so."
"English, August" actor Rahul added: "I think the idea of a blanket ban on smoking is infantile and ludicrous. Children watch adults smoking all day long, whereas they see someone smoking in a film for just five minutes. There's one city in the world where smoking is almost non-existent and that's Los Angeles. In fact, a smoker is almost a pariah in LA! And almost every film from Hollywood has characters smoking. How do we explain that?
"The angry young man of the 1970s created his own law on the screen. How many young people took the law into own hands? Inversely, the poor farmers of China smoke like chimneys. How many films do they watch? I'd say this is the kind of knee-jerk response to smoking that will embarrass the country."
Director Vipul Shah said: "Tickers for every smoking scene? Let's have all the crime scenes with the penalty clause. Scenes of drinking shouldn't be shown in states where booze is banned. Finally, let's have all MPs who have come up with this brilliant idea write scripts for us. In any case they aren't doing much for the country."
Director Vikram Bhatt added: "Smoking is bad, I agree. Nothing should be allowed to encourage smoking. But the film industry is an easy target for populist elements wanting to get famous overnight. Let's first ban parents from smoking in front of children. Let's ban all the shops where you get cigarettes. Once that's done, we'll discuss smoking in films."
Director Rituparno Ghosh said: "What are they trying to do? It can't be an arbitrary decision. Smoking is a social reality. Get to the root of its existence. Prevent passive smoking. Otherwise you've no business stopping films from showing it. I've never smoked in my life. But how can anyone stop people from smoking by not showing it on screen? Smoking is often a good way to fill up awkward pauses in dialogues and to fill out the frame during serious dialogues. That isn't to say we should glorify or glamorise smoking. But to ask for an 'A' certificate for films with smoking is silly."
Actor Anupam Kher questioned: "Why doesn't the health ministry concentrate on more important issues such as child welfare and malnutrition instead of focusing on a non-issue? Surely there are other ways of getting noticed than targeting the film industry on the smallest of pretexts?
"If the visual medium could affect people's psyche, what about the Ramayan and Mahabharat serials on television? People bathed in the morning and did pooja (prayers) before watching these two serials. Then what happened? Did the crime rate drop? Did Ram rajya (rule) return to our nation? How can anyone think people will stop smoking just because Shah Rukh won't smoke on screen?"
Actor Madhavan said: "I agree films should contain a suitable warning against smoking. But I don't know how an 'A' certificate in films showing smoking will prevent people from favouring cancer sticks."
Rakeysh "Rang De Basanti" Mehra said: "Smoking is, of course, bad for health. The government should have the courage and conviction to ban its production, import, distribution and marketing in the country. Films mirror social reality. Eradicate smoking in society and it will vanish from the screen."
Actor Kunal Kapoor said: "It's good to know the health ministry is concerned about young people smoking. But movies and their characters depict reality outside the cinematic experience. It's completely senseless banning something on screen when it's seen all around us. It's like trimming the leaves without cutting the roots of a poisonous plant."
Director Farah Khan agreed: "Why is only the film industry targeted each time? No one says smoking is good for health. But surely there're more effective ways of curbing it. Will the health ministry provide tax exemption for films where no one is shown smoking? No? Then stop making cinema a soft target."
Actor K.K Menon laughed. "Ridiculous. Is the minister also going to provide blindfolds to children to stop them from seeing anyone smoking? I don't advocate smoking. At the same time I detest 'art' being made the scapegoat for ills in society. It's a body of work constantly being stabbed by our self-appointed moral custodians. Most of these custodians don't have the maturity to understand art. Hence they end up behaving like dictators rather than politicians. The worst crime of murdering art at any given opportunity goes unpunished because art is not tangible.
"A warning about smoking before the film starts is fine. But statutory warnings during the running of the film are a ridiculous suggestion. It again proves how ignorant our moral custodians are about art. They need a crash course in the art of suspension of disbelief that is essential for any art. I wonder if these custodians understand censorship. Censorship isn't about censoring art but its patrons. Unfortunately, the custodians have the power to chop and mangle art, which they do freely. Art is like a jungle filled with wild flowers and creatures. It isn't a dull cultivated garden where everything can be controlled."
Actor Randeep Hooda said: "Nicotine is more addictive than heroin. Every smoker is aware of the harm it causes much more than the ill effects of any other harmful substance. After smoking non-stop for 15 years I suddenly quit smoking not because of any statutory warnings, but of my own free will. I guess I just became concerned about my lungs. I started smoking after watching Bruce Willis' cool smoking antics. But it was finally my choice, a stupid choice, to smoke.
"This is a free country and one has the freedom to make stupid choices. There should be graphic warning at the beginning and end of a movie, but not during individual scenes. That would hamper the filmmaker's fundamental right to freedom of expression. It would look preachy. And we all know how the young recoil from sermons. But smoking should definitely be discouraged."