No Smoking Please

Woody Allen’s decision to pull out his film Blue Jasmine from Indian screens reignites the debate: do we really need the annoying scroll every time a character in the film lights up?

Written by Pallavi Pundir | Published: October 11, 2013 2:56:30 am

Shoojit Sircar


What I have always maintained is that the smoking ad is disturbing for the narrative of a film. When my film is being shown in the theatre,if my character is smoking,and the sign comes in each and every frame where he is smoking,it becomes a big distraction. On our part,most of us are not trying to glamourise smoking. It’s about the requirement of the character and the film. One has to gauge the way it’s been portrayed. Personally,I don’t like the way the smoking sign is played during my films.

Honestly,I don’t know how effective the opening ad is. One suggestion is to make an anti-smoking ad aesthetically better. If there is really a requirement for such ads then a clear simple warning will also work. Putting it in every frame doesn’t make sense. They probably do it because some films celebrate smoking but not all films do that. I don’t smoke personally so I find such ads more disturbing.

That Woody Allen has objected to screening his film because

of the smoking ad is a good thing to happen. Most of the people in the industry have also objected in the past. It’s just that this time,the flak has come from Woody Allen since such things don’t happen in his country. But it,nevertheless,is a good thing that someone has put his foot down for this.

I also want to point out that this could be subjective. If there are people who are indeed trying to glorify smoking,it’s their call. I think this decision has to come consciously. I’m not saying we pull out such ads and warnings. Till now,whatever the board has requested,we have worked accordingly.

There are a lot of voices in and outside the industry about this,but at the end of it all,we’re watching a film. I don’t mind if you put the ad in the beginning or the end. I’ll never object to it. It’s the message flashing in the middle of the frame that I’m opposed to. During an intense scene,if the character happens to be smoking and the ticker comes,it disturbs me both as a filmmaker and an audience.

Pankaj Sharma

Spokesperson,Central Board of Film Certification

If the health Ministry has anti-smoking laws and a cautionary ticker during smoking scenes,I don’t see what’s left to discuss. As long as there’s a law,the Censor Board can’t do anything. It’s like the Animal Welfare Board of India,according to which one has to treat animals in a certain way in films. We can’t change the law for just one director and as long as law exists,the Censor Board will uphold it.

When the law was made,there was a whole procedure that preceded it — the government discussed it with the concerned parties,took suggestions from the public,it went through the Parliament,advertisements came out,and so on. The law didn’t come up on its own.

I know that there are many Indian producers and directors who object to these ads,which is natural. However,they keep on raising the point of Freedom of Expression. You can see what has happened to the quality of films nowadays. When the lyricist was penning DK Bose,he wasn’t thinking of its meaning. When the writer wrote the dialogues of Grand Masti,he didn’t understand what it would represent.

There has to be some mechanism. The film industry should have some self-discipline,where they decide that they shouldn’t use certain kind of lyrics,dialogues or scenes. But as long as there isn’t,the Censor Board will be there. In fact,I think the Board should be more powerful.

There are very few sensible filmmakers,but a majority of them want to make the most of the business. In that case,if the Censor Board interferes,I don’t see how that hampers their creative space. I think these cautionary visuals and messages need to be there. As far as the graphic aspect of it is concerned,if it’s not disturbing,there wouldn’t be any impact. Many people who see it confess that they will get goosebumps. We’ve had strict laws. When Gulam Nabi Azad was in charge of Civil Aviation ministry and he banned alcohol on domestic flights,many objected. But in time,they got used to it. In this case also,they will.

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