Wednesday, June 01, 2005

No Smoking!



The Indian Government is banning smoking in all movies and television shows starting Aug. 1. The announcement was made by our Health minister on Tuesday, which was World No Tobacco day. Older and foreign movies that show someone smoking too have to be accompanied by a warning about the dangers of smoking.

Knowing fully well how influential movies are, how far is the Government going to go? I mean I've read about kids jumping from roofs after seeing Shaktimaan; Jayaprakash killing people after seeing Nooraavathu Naal; lovers committing suicide after seeing Ek Duje Ke Liye. How many other things are going to be banned in our movie-crazy country because a few people are unable to distinguish between reel life and real life? Are movies to be blamed for the actions of a few misguided or easily impressionable people?

As an aside, I can't help thinking that Rajnikanth's whole career would have been in jeopardy if this ban had been imposed in the 70's! His early career depended to a great extent on his styles of flipping cigarettes into the air, catching them with his lips, munching a burning cigarette inside his mouth and striking a match from pretty much any surface!

31 Comments:

At 5:22 PM, Anonymous GP said...

Great.. this is really good news.. I think smoking is something which is greatly influenced by movies, thanks to the style.. I know lots of guys in rural areas and small towns look upon the movie heroes and try to emulate whatever they do..

Lots of my classmates in childhood took up smoking after watching our famous heroes smoking.. Rajni in several movies, and Kamal too, in movies like Vaazhve Maayam.. Even yours truly, a brahmin boy from an orthodox family, tried to smoke hidingly after watching some movie.. when i was barely seven.. Thank god it burnt my throat and i threw it away for good..

I have to tell you that Rajini fans and smoking go hand in hand.. It would be a hard job for theaters showing older movies.. Think about it.. the only movie MGR was shown to drink was in 'Oli Vilakku' and it was followed by a song condemning it (needhaan oru mirugam... ) and calling himself an animal for that.. Women liked him for that..

High time our crop of heroes understand that ..

 
At 5:40 PM, Blogger IBH said...

My hubby told me after hearing this news that he started smoking after watching those Clint Eastwood's macho-ish smoking in 'The Good , The Bad , The Ugly'....

I mean it does influence people in some way but we can not totally blame movies for such influences..ofcourse the movie people would say that /Art Immitates Life' and 'Life Immitates Art'...so it is upto an individual to take it or leave it....there are hella lot of good things conveyed thru movies...those were never considered....we could argue like this forever without actually achieving anything...

 
At 7:51 PM, Blogger Ram.C said...

If the Govt. can really enforce this legislation, that would be great. The only thing is that they should not relax after sometime, after getting some kicks from the tobacco industry.

I remember Dr.Anbumani Ramadoss acknowledging Rajini's gestures in 'CM' (without smoking), after the cigratte smoking 'Baba' debates....Now, all the heroes & villains are becoming do-gooders to the society, due to this govt. legislation.. Let us wait and see the impact on the society.

 
At 8:13 PM, Anonymous balaji said...

I think its a welcome move by the govt.

Off late students are depicted as a bunch of hooligans who smoke atleast 2 packets a day and who will do anything for a beer. (Boys for example)This is utter stupidity.

 
At 11:38 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

so looks like we have some people who aped heroes among the readers here too! so i guess the govt. has a point after all!

ibh, i'm actually on the side of the movie people on this. i believe its upto the viewer to separate reel and real life. the govt. can maybe introduce more ratings to indicate presence of unwholesome aspects in the movie. but banning something altogether is overreacting.

balaji, u really think the govt.'s movie is gonna change the way students r depicted?? so now they're gonna be portrayed as hooligans who just drink. does this mean drinking should be banned too? then where would it stop? r movies supposed to show only positive things?

IMO, the govt. has a lot of other things to ban in cinema today than people smoking.

 
At 1:34 AM, Anonymous ram said...

i actually kinda hesitated before posting this...lest i sound presumptuous...

but i think i want to give a cpl of instances where movies have really had a positive influence on me...coz of the characters or the msg. really leaping out of the screen....here're a couple of "movie magic" moments that have really influenced me a lot:

1. a line from "before sunrise" (a girl telling a guy whom she is attracted to)--> if there is any kinda God, it wouldnt be within us, but in that little space between us...if there is any kinda magic in this world, it would be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something.

2. the filial obedience portrayed in "Rhythm" esp the scene in the temple where Arjun chides his parents for bringing up the topic of an old-age home...

3. the atheistic yet humane nature of Kamal Hassan's Nallasivam in "Anbe Sivam." i can never forget the scene where Kamal tells Maddy that he's "God" coz he had enough sympathy for a boy (who just died) whom he didnt know...and then says,"A. Ars, you are a good man." "So are you!" "I know...!"

am not saying that these scenes/movies/dialogues have radically altered my life or anything like that...just trying to illustrate that there're a lot of +ve, almost noble things in cinema that people miss...

just a lament from a rabid movie fanatic...:)

 
At 2:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's all very well saying "its upto the viewer to separate reel and real life".. but sadly, the reality in India is different. Actors are worshipped in a God like manner by the mass public and their every actions are imitated. Actors like Vijay and Ajith use cigarette smoking to add a certain "style" factor to their characters, which in my mind is completely bizzare. Since when is smoking fashionable or stylish??! Vijay is a role model to many many young fans and he is setting an awful example. This ban prevents greedy money-hungry tobacco companies from luring young smokers to this addiction. In the long term, it saves governments and hospitals a lot of money in not having to treat smoking related illness. Some major international cities have already banned smoking in public, restaraunts and pubs. While some other (who shall remain nameless) major G7 governments remain weak and still dance around the idea of a public ban, I think the Indian govt have shown some strength in this matter. I personally don't see it as any different to banning tobacco and alcohol adverts or TV, or Formula 1 banning Tobacco advertisers from their cars.

 
At 5:35 AM, Anonymous Gopi said...

I agree with Anonymous. A lot of people in India are not as educated on health issues. Plus our "youth"'s idea of entertainment seems to be restricted to a few activities: going to movies, hanging out with friends, getting drunk now and then (at least from having observed people that I have known incl. my own friends). I have talked to my friends many times about taking care of their health through working out but none of them have done absolutely anything. Imagine my frustration and amusement when one of my friends wanted me to help him get in shape in time to attend his sister's wedding in Madurai?!?! So I sent him an email to start a discussion on the matter and he never replied on the subject. And these are middle class guys who can read and have access to such media as the internet. I mean if our guys were to regularly partake in physical activities such as working out, the occasional hike, etc. they will become much more in tune with their bodies and will be more aware of the damage they do to themselves...and, in future, can lead their kids by example. I am quite sure that there are people who do take care of themselves physically but I don't know any such person from where I come. Almost all older people I know have health problems and probably are in no position to provide advice to young people on health related matters. Hopefully this decision by the Government will prove itself productive for our people in the long run.

 
At 6:10 AM, Blogger IBH said...

Balaji, when does the rating of a picture help an Indian viewer actually? they just discard that rating as yet another number...I remember past week end one of my American Colleague telling methat he wuld like ot watch latest star wars installment (remember it is PG 13) before he could allow his kid to watch it....in India we have never ever given a heed to such ratings..I remember my neighbour complaining me about 'Boys' movie claiming that to be movie filled with vulgarity and that his son saw it....I mean for god's sake 'Boys' had an 'A' rating I believe...but nobody gave any heed to that....that explains it all..

cinema being a mass medium and that too entertaining we could never stop such things...

 
At 8:16 AM, Anonymous vijay said...

Even the rating system (n US or wherever) is subjective. who decides that a movie is PG-13 or not? And HOW do they do it? I have found several critics like James Berardinelli disagreeing with the R and PG-13 rating of movies. Its just a broad guideline, thats all. I agree in India, no ones gives it a damn and sadly its probably not strictly enforced either.But banning things is stretching it a little too far which brings me to the main issue..

Banning smoking in films is BS. Next what? Banning all lip-to-lip kiss scenes? How about banning item numbers altogether?
This is just (unwanted) interference on an artiste's license. Instead, they can make it difficult to buy cigarettes or drink by imposing heavier taxes. Would they consider that? If a director wants to make a genuine film say on the evils of drugs or smoking, how is he going to do that without showing someone smoke?

How about banning all fight scenes, as it may incite violence?

Lets just make mythological and devotional movies

 
At 8:22 AM, Blogger Vijay said...

And secondly, how is smoking bad? Atleast how is it worse than say, prostitution? We have several films depicting brothels and club dances. And why not ban cigarettes altogether instead of banning scenes in films that supposedly promote smoking? this is just hippocrisy. In the long run, eating fast food might be end up as harmful as smoking . So why not ban all scenes where the characters are shown eating fast food? I understand smoking in public might be bad, you are causing some kind of harm even to non-smokers and there is already a ban on that. But what's wrong if a guy chooses to smoke in the privacy of his room? Its his choice. If he smokes knowing all the perils of smoking then he is aware of the risk he is undertaking. I find the whole thing exaggerated and hippocratic.

 
At 8:49 AM, Anonymous Gopi said...

Most people in the US seem to consider movies disposable entertainment. In India, movies are not disposable entertainment for the "masses". The idea (I hope) behind the ban is to prevent impressionable youngsters from picking up smoking as a habit...because smoking most often is portrayed in a hip way by leading stars in movies. I am not talking about smoking as it would be portrayed in a documentary. Remember Vijay taking a cigarette out of his collar in Thirumalai? Balaji had something to say about it in his review. The ban's effect in movies most likely will go unnoticed by adults and college kids who are already smokers (in the privacy of their rooms). If underage kids can somehow obtain cigarettes in a country such as the US, can you imagine the difficulty involved in controlling such behavior in a country like India? I like Vivek (the comedian) but several of his scenes involve references to "a quarter". There is a funny scene in Minnale where Vivek, Madhavan and their friends pass around a single cigarette while drinking and discussing who Madhavan's new lady love might be. Until I heard of this ban, I never thought how such a scene might inspire some kid somewhere to throw together a "late night study".

 
At 9:17 AM, Anonymous Prem said...

I guess deep down, my real issue is with actors like Vijay, Ajith, Simbu, Madhavan etc making smoking look "cool". Gopi mentions 'impressionable youngsters' and it's this demographic that is my main concern and worry. I fear that these young actors do not realise they (whether they themselves like it or not!) pose as a role model for many kids in Tamil Nadu. These are the kind of people who like to imitate their 'stars' - This is FACT however much we might all argue that they should seperate life from art.
I would much preferred the actors to get together and come up with some sort of code that agreed to not glamourise smoking. It would be a very responsible thing to do and one I feel they should do for their adoring young fans.
In the mean time, the ultimate cynic here wonders whether back handed tobacco companies pay actors and directors large sums of money to stick a cigarette in their mouths.. hmm..

 
At 10:10 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

ram, yes definitely. and there have probably been cases where people did good after seeing something onscreen. but we hear only people being spoiled/led astray by movies cos of the usual tendency to sensationalize and focus on bad news i guess...

ibh, yeah i agree. that was just wishful thinking on my part. i think the govt. is going the wrong way about it by banning smoking. And that was just an alternative idea.

anon/gopi, i have no arguments about the ills of smoking, etc. or even kids apeing their fav heroes. my question is more on the govt.'s way of tackling this. i have pretty much the same argument as vijay. if the govt. interferes in what is essentially a form of entertainment, how far will they go? are we going to the stage where movies should ONLY have wholesome elements in it? and who decides exactly what is wholesome?

 
At 10:19 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

gopi, well-said.

prem, very nicely put. your suggestion is socially responsible and quite practical too IMO. getting the actors(atleast the popular ones) to agree to a code of ethics is a nice way to tackle the problem. rajni kinda did this, though for a diff. reason, in CM by not smoking. they could even do ads on the ills of smoking. that way, the govt. is tackling the problem at its root and turning an apparent issue around to its advantage. and the actors would earn a few brownie points too! good thinking :)

 
At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Vijay said...

why not ban smoking altogether, if its is that bad? Let the govt.create alternater opportunities for the tobacco workers? Although I am not personally against anyone smoking in their own private space, if smoking is indeed perceived to be something "bad" lets just ban it altogether. Banning it only in films is hippocrisy. Increase the taxes, make it tough to get cigarettes. Like someone mentioned earlier, let those young acotrs themselves do the ads for smoking ills. In US they have ads for drugs refusal that feature celebrities, I believe. T

"I would much preferred the actors to get together and come up with some sort of code that agreed to not glamourise smoking"

Again this would amount to a ban on smoking scenes altogether in films. Because whats "glamorous" and whats not is again a subjective area and the only way to ensure this is a complete ban.

Rules and policies affecting the general junta as a whole cannot be made based on the actions of a few "impressionable younsgsters" (read "immature adults"). What can be strictly governed is that kids dont get easy access to drugs/drinks/cigarettes etc. That is easier said than done for the govt. Hence they take the easy way out.

 
At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Gopi said...

Yes, excellent thinking, Prem!! Maybe the actors can start protraying the popular blood cancer theme of the 80s...kinda put a scare into them young'uns. Yeah, I know, Vijay or Ajith dying in a movie...unthinkable, man!

BTW, Balaji, the link to your review of Thirumalai is not working.

 
At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Gopi said...

Unfortunately, this is one instance where I wholeheartedly agree with the government taking the easy way out. Of course, it will be a great plus if they can restrict access (or better, enforce access) to cigarette buying to only adults. But I get the feeling kids probably perceive buying cigarettes or booze easier than say going to a hooker. It looks like the government realizes something along the same line and has come out with the cigarette ban to start with and will probably leave it to the censor board to act on the other stuff, which are sex and violence in movies. What the government might come up with in future, I have not a clue. India might be a democracy but its also unlike any other democracy :)

 
At 1:02 PM, Anonymous Vijay said...

first of all how many take to smoking based on the heros in films? Has anyone done any systematic study? There are many who smoke just out of curiosity(just because someone told them that smoking is taboo and they what to see what the heck it is all about) or their father might already be a smoker or they may just pick it up from some friends in college or even during ragging. I am not sure what percentage we are talking about. The govt. has acted upon general opinion, that movie heros are the big reasons for inducing smoking and so on. Baseless.

"It looks like the government realizes something along the same line and has come out with the cigarette ban to start with and will probably leave it to the censor board to act on the other stuff, which are sex and violence in movies."

At this rate its not long before we see a ban on lip-tolip kiss scenes or even fight scenes or anyscenes that show an "aruvaaL" as it may incite violence. Ridiculous.

Just ban the damn cigarettes if you want to. Arrange for tobacco workers to have some alternate means of livelihood. Otherwise, this is just a publicity stunt at the expense of art, cinema and freedom of expression.

 
At 1:44 PM, Anonymous Gopi said...

"Just ban the damn cigarettes if you want to. Arrange for tobacco workers to have some alternate means of livelihood."

That is a healthy idea and is probably a worthy research study for someone. There are a lot of people who would like nothing better than the sale of cigarettes stopped since we have enough air pollution in the bigger cities in India. It would indeed be a major "coup" for the government to shut down such a nasty industry and arrange for alternate livelihoods for workers. Ultimately it all comes down to feasibility and in a country such as ours with its lethal combination of bureaucracy and minimal infrastructure, short-term solutions seem to be often preferred to long-term ones.

"first of all how many take to smoking based on the heros in films?"

It is true that they could have picked it up from someone else (like that regular at the corner tea stall) but the government cannot tell that someone else to stop smoking. But if they can get away with doing something about the movie industry...well they most likely will try to get away with doing something about the movie industry :) At least, it is not as embarassing as arresting the CEO of an online retail company because a random adult movie was sold through that company's inventory.

I have a feeling that the Prime Minister somehow influenced this particular ban. Anyone else feel that way?

 
At 2:40 PM, Blogger Orange Fronkey said...

Pshhh..

Though I dont like the smell of smoke and dont like people who smoke it, i dont think banning that in movies gonna help.

I dont think people are THAT stupid to be imitating everything a movie hero does..? then agin we could never underestimate one's stupidity.

The kids I was talking about in some other comment box, who are supposedly major Vijay fans... THe littler one, is around 9ish right now.. but the last time i saw him he was about 7ish, and he was talking about "THIRUMALAI" and how cool Vijay looked getting his cigeratte outta his shirt collar... i was like O_O .

If smoking is gonna get banned, vulgar pickup jokes should be banned.

I can think of many things that could be banned, like Vivek making fun of "not so good looking" females, like saying "tire romba thenjipona maathiri irukku"... whats that teaching the people who watch it...

Or his joke with sleeping with a begger woman =P.

I could go on.. but kai valikuthu =P

 
At 8:16 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

vijay/gopi, banning cigarettes wouldn't really help since it would just lead to a black market for the cigarettes which will ultimately turn out to be even more harmful. thats what happened in the case of liquor isnt it? where the govt. had these legal Re.1 packets. i'm still for prem's idea :) seems like the most practical at this point.

and gopi, what makes u think MD's behind this? his clean image?

merino, there r people on here who copied a hero and tried smoking! so i guess its easy to be tempted!

would be a real long list if i started talking about things to be banned. here r a few to add to yours...
anything around the thaali sentiment
explicit and long rape scenes
all tsunami references

 
At 10:41 PM, Blogger Orange Fronkey said...

Oh how can I forget rape scenes...

Hey, what about all the fight scenes be banned too since they are getting way too violent? =P

And item numbrs like someone mentioned in here...

And those references to booties

And vivek's lil comments on fat people

 
At 7:18 AM, Blogger Vijay said...

"banning cigarettes wouldn't really help since it would just lead to a black market for the cigarettes which will ultimately turn out to be even more harmful. thats what happened in the case of liquor isnt it?"

It wont happen that way if the govt. is really concerned about smoking. We seem to be proposing ideas
by taking the government's ineptness and corruption-mindedness for granted. Why should the film industry suffer for government's ineptness? I am not against actors doing an ad for smoking ills. Have seen ads for drugs here in US. Rajni did it for polio years back. But banning it in films is too much and I guess we agree on that. And how much of an effect would it make if its banned in films is still debatable. Will there be any survey or poll conducted by the govt. say 2 or 3 years from now to find out how banning it in movies really helped the cause? Has any systematic statistical study been done already? Probably not. Its all done just based on heresay.

 
At 7:48 AM, Anonymous Gopi said...

I read that it was Sharmila Tagore who suggested the ban (with the support of the Health Ministry). So...it is only a proposed ban that has not been implemented into law. Perhaps the Government will fund a study after all. I also read an article by Aamir Khan where he bashes this proposed ban. One of his examples was how would he be able to portray a role in which he might need to chain smoke, if smoking were banned from movies. My suggestion to the a**hole: since there are young kids who look up to you, there is no need to portray such a f**ked up role. The ideal solution, of course, would be for parents to control (not just decide) what their kids can watch. Then Aamir Khan-ji can portray whoever or whatever he wants to. We won't have to worry about banning anything from movies...just simply ensure that the rating system is properly utilized by theater owners and parents alike. Anyone think that will happen? No harm in maintaining a positive attitude, eh. Another thing that Distributors and Actors should take responsibility for (along the lines of what Prem has already suggested) is how their movies are advertised. Stop splashing posters everywhere (especially from across schools) or at the very least control what you display in the posters.

Since air and land pollution seem to be fast growing problems in Asian metros, let the Government worry about more pressing needs such as improving on existing environmental protection laws and enforcing them. 'nuff said.

 
At 8:27 AM, Blogger Vijay said...

Here is an article that hits it right on the head

http://us.rediff.com/movies/2005/jun/02sumit.htm

"My suggestion to the a**hole: since there are young kids who look up to you, there is no need to portray such a f**ked up role."

why is he an a**hole for just doing his job? When he accepts a project next time does he have to conduct an opinion poll and seek the overall consensus of kids and parents before accepting it? Aamir Khan is a professional and if he has to play the part of a drug addict or smoker addict he cant do it anymore.

" I read that it was Sharmila Tagore who suggested the ban"

that explains everything :-))

 
At 10:00 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

vijay, the original news item did say that this action was taken after a report done by WHO based on a 10 year long study. so doesn't look like its just based on hearsay. as for the poll down the road, who knows... they may do one after all...

gopi, we already talked about the difficulty in implementing the rating system in india.
and an actor needs to be able to do what he thinks is necessary to add to his role. playing a smoker/drinker/drug addict who then reforms obviously requires the actor to be able to smoke!

 
At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Gopi said...

Vijay, I know. I know. Aamir is not an a**hole...a son of a gun, perhaps :) I was trying to be sarcastic in an amusing sort of way but...

I heard the Dems in California want the Governor to get rid of his smoking tent because they feel kids who come to the Capitol might somehow be influenced by seeing a smoking Governor! Well, let the Governor make sure he ain't smoking when kids show up for a tour.

 
At 11:05 AM, Anonymous vijay said...

WHO studied a decade of films. They didnt study for a decade. Anyways from what is published I am highly skeptical as to how thorough of a study this is. Because its a psychological study more or less(of how cinema influences younsgsters), not the usual yes-or-no kind of survey. And all this "3 times more likely" kind of inferences seem so skewed. Like one director has commented, instead of taking steps to curb this in the real world, they are attacking the virtual world as it is easier to do, never mind if it has an effect or not.

 
At 10:09 PM, Anonymous Srinivasan (cheena_sha@yahoo.com) said...

The Govt.'s banning smoking in the small and big screen is nothing but again a stunt!!

If the G is really interested in its subjects, why can't they bring an ordinance and stop growing tobacco anywhere in India? If it is really concerned about liver-cirois amongst its people, why on earth they are keeping quiet still, not ordering all liquor shops to close and liquor manufacturers to pull down their shutters once for all? They wont.
Because then who will fill their coffers?

It is like letting out your front hall to an Ahimsa convention in the day and allowing an abattoir to work there in the night!

I hope many who read this must be knowing Tamil. I would like to quote one song penned by Pattukottai. "Thirudanaai paarthu thirundha vittaal, thiruttai ozhikka mudiyathu" Very true.
People basically should be honest, otherwise, no police, no military, no law can mend them.

When the Govt. banned liquor ad. on small and big screens, what did our smart ad people do? They manufactured (or they claimed so) soda and named it after the popular brand of liquors and comfortably went on advertising about their soda. And our people know how to read in between lines and the message is driven home!
You think our Govt. is made of duds who can not detect this hoodwinking?

It is all in the game. "Naan adikkira maadhiri adikkiren, Nee azhara madhiri azhu" is the name of the game.

 
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