Dealing with the travesty called Smoking disclaimer

Posted: March 6, 2014 in Lifestyle, Movies, Social
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Regardless of the lack of logic shown on regular events, I inhale and exhale Bollywood cinema. You pay money and walk into a theater not just for good quality visuals, but also for the ambience so that you can take a break from the daily hullabaloo existing in your life. In fact, a movie theater is the only place where it is allowed to contradict the reality every minute and get charmed by it. If you are really fortunate, then the movie unravels a good story as well.

In the past few years, the film industry had to bow down to Indian health ministry to pop in a disclaimer that reads “Smoking is injurious to health”, followed by a voice over that says that the actors in the movie do not support any form of tobacco or alcohol consumption. This message takes a repulsive spin when it is accompanied by horrific images of supposed smokers who now suffer from oral cancer. Clearly the intention of this disclaimer is to get smokers thinking that even they could stumble upon something similar if they continue smoking.

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However, the entire purpose of the message is defeated in the first slide itself when you see a visual of the amount of tar found in the lungs of average smokers. A sponge -symbolizing your lungs- soaked in a tar-like material is squeezed into a beaker to show how much damage is being done to your body. This segment is then followed by an eerie voiceover (giving tough competition to the background score of Zee Horror Show) saying “This much tar is adequate to make you sick – terribly sick.” The viewer will consider the voiceover holy and reform himself at that very moment, at least the Indian health ministry department thinks so! Any kind of logical or scientific clarification can go out and enjoy popcorn.

Just when you were wishing that this bizarre torture is going to end here, baaam, the tar visual leads you to a doctor who starts narrating you the case of a patient called Mukesh who apparently died due to the menace of oral cancer. Mukesh admits his condition in front of the camera, and ultimately the doctor notifies us in a grave tone that he could not be saved. Although it is intended to evoke compassion and ethical values, all it could do is leaving audience irritated.

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What is more irritating is the feeling that a judgment is being propelled down your throat. Besides, do you think the smokers are already not aware of the ill-effects of tobacco? Even a cigarette packet contains the message that ‘smoking is injurious to health’, but smokers are so thick skinned that such messages are hardly going to get any reaction from them. Alternatively, I would have appreciated such messages if they actually made some sense to the proposed viewers. But creating a message cum advertisement with gory visuals and stereotype confession of smokers is not going to be of any help. On the contrary it ends up ruining the movie experience of so many people who came in just to have fun and enjoy cinema with their loved ones.

A cinema hall is a place to relish a spectacular world of movies. No one comes expecting to learn the side-effects of smoking. I wish the anti-smoking lobbies understood that there are many other places where this vital information can be strewn. Even before the start of the film these visuals put an unpleasant taste in your mouth. The audience may enjoy ‘leave your brain at home’ kind of Movies, but that does not connote that they do not have the ability to think on their own. Seeing a disclaimer like ‘Smoking is Injurious’ whenever a movie character lights up a cigarette is certainly not the ideal way to get your message across. Furthermore, it seems, they are encroaching in our private space and distracting us with needless reminders.

Last year when filmmaker Anurag Kasyhap filed a petition in Bombay High Court against the anti-smoking disclaimer, I was pleasantly surprised and thought at least someone had the guts to speak his mind. He clearly stated in the petition that “This warning destroys the aesthetic value of a film. I don’t want my audience to get distracted and my film is not an advertisement hoarding for social service messages.” Such is the impact of this disclaimer that even Woody Allen’s Oscar nominated movie ‘Blue Jasmine’ could not see a release date in India since Woody refused to insert a pointless disclaimer in his movie.

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The Indian health ministry can assert that teenagers pick up habits from movie actors, but keeping in mind the current scenario of the country, do you actually think that way? No one glorifies rape in our movies, yet they happen every day and every minute. Despite airing these disclaimers for so many years, people continue to smoke. Are you actually so naive to envision that such short films/disclaimers will help in any considerable way? I hope, in the near future, the censor board allows us to come out of this smokescreen and enjoy our films.

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Image courtesy:

http://www.bollywoodlife.com, www.in.com, www.telegraph.co.uk, http://www.outlookindia.com

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Comments
  1. Akshit Choudhary says:

    Agreed totally!!

  2. Mancy says:

    You’ve actually caught something that needs a serious attention. You know – I find it terribly the worst that people in India (not literally the people but the administrators) think that showing something means its already done or it will get done. Acting on it becomes secondary. Most certainly, the ads about no smoking has been beneficial to me only when I reach late at the theatre and afraid to lose the part of a movie. But then, yes I always get relieved thinking that thankfully I will miss that boring advert which of course clicks no mind at all of any smokers in anyway. Who the hell is looking after the marketing department for health and ministry administration of India? No, there is always a way to convey and deliver the message in a proper way, just like the way you do at your blog.

    • @Mancy: First of all I am overwhelmed that you found my blog relatively more straightforward and proper than health and ministry administration of India. Secondly, I am in agreement with you when you say that smoking ads are beneficial only when we are late for the movie. Hope our voices will reach to them someday ! 🙂

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