At a time when onscreen smoking finds place in films under the guise of creative freedom, a Malayalam movie is promoting public health
Recently released Om Shanti Oshaana, a romantic movie directed by Jude Antony Joseph, it subtly drives home tobacco harms and makes a public commitment against onscreen smoking. It is scripted by Midhun Manuel and produced by Alvin Antony’s Ananya Films. The opening sequence of the film has the lead actor, Nivin Pauly, attempting to light a cigarette. As mandated by Section 5 of India’s tobacco control law COTPA, 2003, a statutory warning is displayed on screen. The actor tries to brush the warning message aside, proceeds to light the cigarette again only to see the warning once more. He is not able to ignore the health warning and ends up crumbling and discarding the cigarette.
Following an exchange between the actor and his co-artist, the film announces that there will be no instance of onscreen smoking in it. Antony said onscreen smoking has a definite impact in developing smoking habits and it was his conscious decision to make a film without any smoking scenes. “The response received for my film so far shows that films can succeed without depiction of smoking and drinking,” said Antony.
Welcoming the trend, ace director Sathyan Anthikad said: “It cannot be denied that cinema influences society. Control messages as in Om Shanti Oshaana wherein popular lead actors publicly denounce smoking, will strike a better chord than routine statutory warnings.”
Under COTPA Section 5, all new Indian or foreign films/television programmes displaying tobacco products or their use should have a strong editorial justification and should air anti-tobacco health spots, of minimum 30 seconds at the beginning and middle of the film/programme.
A nationally representative cross-sectional study covering 123,768 women and 74,068 men in urban and rural areas of all Indian states concluded that exposure to visual mass media leads to higher likelihood of tobacco consumption – both smoking and chewing – amongst both genders.