Contending that the ‘no smoking’ warning is a “violation of his creative expression”, film-maker Anurag Kashyap told the Bombay High Court on Tuesday that he would not comply with the rules of the Cigarettes and Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production Supply and Distribution) Act while screening his soon-to-be-released film Ugly.
Describing Ugly as a “dark thriller”, Kashyap said in his petition before the court, that there are several scenes that depict the use of tobacco products as part of the film’s “sinister theme”. The petition states that the projection is a “part of the director’s vision” and a cinematic genre which is rarely explored in Bollywood.
A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M.S. Sanklecha issued notices to respondents including the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and directed them to file their replies by February 28.
On September 19, 2013, Kashyap submitted his film to the CBFC for certification and, in a letter, also said he did not wish to have the anti-smoking message displayed during the film. The CBFC, however, in a letter dated September 20, 2013, told him that on non-compliance of the rules, the film would not be granted a censor certificate. Kashyap, in his petition, said the film’s release has therefore been prevented. The film was originally scheduled to hit cinema halls in January. “A mere depiction or display of a character or a situation using cigarette or tobacco product does not attract the attention of audience specifically to the cigarette or tobacco product, nor is it intended to promote the sale of those products and hence, does not amount to advertisement,” states the petition.
“As is well known, despite the statutory warning against smoking, a number of persons cutting across our social fabric — be it political leaders, professionals, academicians, doctors, gangsters, army and police officials, bureaucrats, intellectuals, lawyers, anti-social elements or others — do smoke and use tobacco products,” it says.
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Stating that the Act imposes curbs on usage of tobacco products in films and television programmes, unless an “editorial justification” is provided by the filmmaker, and also necessitates an ‘A’ certificate from the CBFC, the petition says these provisions are “illegal” as film certification comes under the Cinematograph Act, 1952, and cannot be governed by the Cigarettes and Tobacco Products Act.
“Have you (Kashyap) given an editorial justification?” Chief Justice Shah asked. Kashyap’s counsel Virendra Tulzapurkar replied, “Editorial justification is for showing the scene. I am saying I am not going to comply with the rules”. The court is scheduled to hear the case on March 5.