When I first started flying abroad I realized that Indian airlines don’t serve liquor on the flights. When I asked some people in the aviation ministry why was that so they said, Indian passengers will get drunk and misbehave. Later on the ban was lifted- today even the government owned Indian (Air Lines) serves liquor. I have checked with several pilots and cabin crew, the instances of intoxicated misbehaviour are rare and the same as on other airlines (with other nationalities) and no one is complaining.
The government felt that the public was immature but the public proved otherwise. In India the government has always got a better public than it deserves, still it continues to underestimate the maturity of the public.
So the government felt that the public is so immature that it will copy all that its film stars do on the screen- so ban smoking scenes.
Censorship doesn’t help. For long Indian films did not show kissing… just before the lips locked two daisies would come fluttering on the scene. Surrogate kissing. What an anticlimax? India is such a society where a man and his wife would not even hold hands in public, at parties they sit far away from each other, their films don’t show kissing, there is no public display of affection. But all this repression wakes up in the night with such frenzy that we give every year a population equivalent to that of Australia to the world.
This whole idea of hiding things or not trusting your publics to be mature enough does not let the society grow up. I am glad that Mahesh Bhatt filed the PIL against the ban on smoking scenes and won. People like him and Shah Rukh Khan are in fact social reformers. But what do we see? We see the Mahesh Bhatt uses sex in his films and Shah Rukh Khan smokes in public. We don’t see that behind the sleaze in Mahesh’s films there is an attempt to break taboos and attack hypocrisies that make us weak and non credible as a society. Behind Shah Rukh’s smoking is the utter helplessness of a man who is not being able to kick the habit. But his views on almost all matters are salubrious, progressive and deeply patriotic. He has a true Chak-De-spirit. Karl Marx has said that revolutions are the locomotives of history. This society and its socio-political leaders are too timid to give a revolution to the world. Can’t we then see it is such indirect leaders who are trying to make the society evolve? And the government wishes to straight jacket them by curbing their freedom.
Smoking scenes are often required to give a feel to the film. They also often help précis-writes the character e.g. a woman who smokes in a Hindi film.
If you want to curb smoking, gradually attack the source- the manufacturer of cigarettes. That is difficult to do suddenly not only because of the Rs 8,000 crore revenue per annum which the Government would lose but more importantly because such a move would render thousands jobless. Often such a remedy proves worse than the disease. Remember, the prohibition law in the USA led to the growth of the Mafia. Closer home the prohibition legislation hasn’t made Gujarat a dry state. If anything it has become wetter and has bred an army of bootleggers. Legislation and censorship cannot change societal mores.
Having said that, this is the first Health Minister who has shown such spunk of taming this tiger (Tobacco Industry) and he needs to be applauded for the same. But he should look for alternative routes.
Let there be a voluntary ban on depicting smoking unnecessarily. Or can we, like the Motion Pictures Association of America is suggesting, alter the rating of a film if there is damaging tobacco use in it. Even spiritual gurus can be requested to join hands in campaigning against smoking. Let the government seek their help and give them an opportunity to do something concrete and constructive. (Religious advocacy works in controlling social habits. Note how effective has the Sikh Scriptures’ ban against smoking been).
But don’t stifle the creative spirit. Let the society evolve. It is high time.
Nahi bahaaon thothi aur murda rasamo par jhoothe aansu
Sacchai aur Samajh se apni duniya badal dalo
(Do not shed crocodile tears on phony and defunct traditions
Change your world through truth and wisdom)