Claiming that drinking and smoking scenes in movies send a wrong message to children and are a bad influence on them, the Kerala state Legislative Committee on Women, Transgender, Children and Differently-abled has recommended a removal of such scenes from movies and television serials.
The panel has also suggested that the Censor Board permit screening of movies only after the removal of such scenes. The current rules make it mandatory to show statutory warnings during scenes that depict smoking, drinking. However, the latest recommendation raises concerns, as it would be tough to implement these rules without affecting the flow of the story as certain scenes might be crucial in the plot.
Filmmakers, critics and the public share their opinion on the matter. Can airing smoking and drinking scenes along with the mandatory statutory warning serve the purpose? Do such scenes have a negative impact on the viewers comprising various age groups?
I think it doesn’t make sense to censor smoking and drinking scenes in films. I grew up at a time when one could smoke inside malls and aeroplanes; I wasn’t influenced. On the contrary, I made my father quit smoking. I think it is incorrect to believe that watching someone do something on screen is enough to influence the audience to do the same in real life. It has happened, but I’m sure it’s a very small percentage. The raw images on packaging is enough to make someone not want to start drinking or smoking. When it comes to children, I think everything begins at home. I believe friends and family have a lot more power to influence them than films do.
Being a filmmaker, I want to have the freedom to portray whatever I want in my film. I make the kind of films I want to make and not please anyone. If I include smoking or drinking, it doesn’t mean I’m promoting it. I don’t need to give anybody a reason as to why I’m doing so. The fact that people believe the government or other organisations should decide for them in itself is a problem. Movie ratings exist for a reason and when you know that a movie has an ‘A’ certificate then it implies that it has content that should not be watched by kids. Therefore it is best not to take your kids to such movies. Let movie makers show what they want to and the public should make the choices they want to.
Roshan Chikodi, short filmmaker and photographer
First of all, the chances of this becoming a rule is almost nil. Legally, the state government hardly has any authority to impose such rules overriding the CBFC. But the findings of the panel are unfortunate. I feel, censorship of movies should be done away with. It’s an undemocratic tool which stifles the expression of the artists and curbs the growth of varied artistic expressions. If the state is going to decide what is apt for its citizens to watch and hear, what is the difference between authoritarian governments and democratic India. It is a paternalistic approach of the state where it doesn’t appreciate the maturity and intelligence of the citizens.
Nithin, movie enthusiast
There are two sides to the issue. First, I think it is an old debate. If we were talking about this in the 90s, it would have made some sense. In this era of internet it depends on the people how they perceive certain things. Of course, you should not show something which is problematic. There are warnings on the screens, same as the ones found on cigarette packets and alcohol bottles. But at the end of the day, films reflect society and if we add unnecessary morals to it, there will be too many problems. Cinema and television are not a primary mode of education and just forms of entertainment. Secondly, I feel that you can’t glorify any problematic character because they have an impact on teenagers, it only depends on how evolved you are and with what understanding you are watching the content.
Gaurav Panjwani, Filmmaker
Need sensitisation, not ban
It’s true that such scenes impact the thought process of the youth and many a time encourage them to indulge in these activities. However, a complete ban on them is somehow breaching the freedom of speech and expression of the movie makers. The law should be followed and the public should also understand the meaning of the precautionary message written on the screen during the smoking and drinking scenes. Also, in order to stop these activities, it’s better to teach all age groups of the severe ill-effects of drinking and smoking.
Shriya Sachdeva, Student
Movies do not change mindset
Cinema is a creative product and people who are judging it based on two or three scenes should think that no director would include such scenes unless they are required in the script.
Deleting such scenes is not acceptable as they can hamper the entire feel of the movie. Moreover, it is the responsibility of the Censor Board to provide certification to a movie according to its content. So, movies with extreme violence and content not permissible for children are given A certificate and can only be watched by people who are 18 and above.
If at all, other movies also have drinking and smoking scenes, then it is the responsibility of the parents and society to make the kids understand that movies are just about stories that are not real, and that following various trends shown in them is not right. The mindset of people is not structured because of watching certain movies.
Akhil anilkumar, short filmmaker