Kareena Kapoor’s smoking scenes allowed, but with statutory warning

Bollywood has mixed reactions to government ruling on smoking scenes in films, but an NGO has asked Heroine director Madhur Bhandarkar to comply with the regulations

B-town’s reaction was mixed Tuesday to the central government informing the Supreme Court that it would permit smoking scenes in films though with a statutory warning: Cigarette smoking is injurious to health.

Director Bejoy Nambiar, whose debut film Shaitan had many smoking scenes,said. “I think its fair enough as long as the censor board is allowing the smoking scene with a few restrictions. Because what I have heard is in down South any film with a smoking scene gets an ‘A’ certificate and this affects the economics of the film. So I feel this decision is much better.”

Filmmaker Karan Malhotra, who faced issues during the shooting of his item song Chikni Chamli in Agneepath says it is ridiculous. “I feel it’s ridiculous and disgusting. Instead of doing all these things why don’t they stop selling cigarettes? I just don’t understand this concept. If they have a rape scene in the film even that time are they going to run the supers,” Malhotra remarked. He further added, “It is not only distracting but it also looks foolish. When someone comes to see a film paying Rs 300, we are just spoon feeding them with such moral rules.”

Director Vivek Agnihotri said, “It’s a sad commentary on the way we have understood cinema. I don’t understand why cinema becomes the victim all the time. In no other country people interfere the way films function. There is no other art form that touches everyone’s life. I just don’t understand this.”

A Supreme Court bench of Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi was told that the new notification would mandate that the films showing a smoking scene would show the actor giving a warning at the start of the film, in between after the interval while a static message would be displayed in the course of the scene showing smoking. Senior counsel V Shekhar, appearing for the government, told the court that the notification superseding all earlier notifications prohibiting smoking scenes would be issued September 14.

While adjourning the hearing of the matter, the apex court declined to entertain a plea by a counsel seeking exemption for the release of the film, Heroine, which has scenes of women puffing cigarettes. Meanwhile, an NGO working in the field of healthcare has asked Madhur Bhandarkar, the producer of Hindi movie Heroine, to comply with rules against showing smoking scenes on screen. Hriday (Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth), which has been working in spreading message against tobacco usage, wrote to Bhandarkar after the producer approached Delhi High Court seeking a censor board clearance for his Kareena Kapoor-starrer Heroine, without following the regulations against depiction of smoking.

The new guidelines, under the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Rules, 2004, say that every new and old film (Indian and foreign), as well as TV programmes (new and old), must have the actors mouthing health warnings at the beginning of the film, and in the middle. It also restricts depiction of smoking. The organisation has written to Bhandarkar citing examples of movies like Agneepath and Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. “We would like to bring to your notice that many of the renowned filmmakers like Karan Johar have complied with the regulations in full spirit for his blockbuster movies like Agneepath and Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. Blurring of scenes where close up of the tobacco product is shown and running health message in the beginning and the interval of the film,” the letter said.

Bhandarkar had Monday moved the Delhi High Court against the information and broadcasting ministry’s order to display anti-smoking messages during smoking scenes in the movie. Heroine is scheduled to release September 21.