Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A belated take on the Cigarette Ban

In a recent directive, the Indian Health Minister, Dr. Ramadoss banned the portrayal of smoking in films and television. From now on, no new Indian film or TV program can show a character smoking a cigarette. And if that were not enough, smoking scenes in movies/shows made before the ban will have to be excised as well.

Now, in the week since this bit of governmental stupidity, bloggers and commentators have had a field day criticising and fisking it. Amit Varma wrote about it. Amir Khan wrote an open letter to the fool Honourable Minister. Gaurav Sabnis wrote an open letter to the Minister and Mr. Khan. Now, discerning readers may have noticed my silence on the issue. This is not, I assure you, because I agree with the directive. Its because I've been unable to think of something suitably clever to say, something that hadn't been said at least a hundred times already.

So, to the point of the article. I was reading a blog post on the issue that agreed (sort of) with the directive. Not agreeing at all with the author, I wrote a comment on the blog, which had an example of how this directive could screw up in unexpected ways. Then, dazzled by my own brilliance, I decided to put it on my own blog.
(...) Banning cigarettes on film is a stupid idea.

The thing is, people smoke. A lot. And if we want movies to have some link with reality, people on film will have to smoke too.

Now lets say The History Channel wants to make a documentary on Fidel Castro and American attempts to kill him. One of the CIA's plots to kill him involved smuggling him an exploding cigar. This stupid idea that failed is a part of modern history. But under the proposed law, it would have to be censored. people in India will never know how desperate the CIA was to kill Castro in the 1960s.
As I see it, the new rules will mean that we can't have footage of Castro smoking. This means we can't have footage of Castro at all. If he visits India and attends, for example, the Republic Day Parade, we won't be able to watch the parade on TV. It will have to be censored.

Of course, there is more to my objection than not being able to see Fidel Castro. What I am trying to say is that smoking is something that real people do, and it is a part of their lives. Banning its depiction will make films and TV that much different from reality.

Put that up your pipe, Dr Ramadoss, and smoke it.


Post a Comment

<< Home