Remember the anti-tobacco advertisement about 25-year-old Mukesh who died of cancer? Or other such ads by the Government of India that are played in film theatres to discourage people from smoking? That responsibility now lies on Bollywood’s shoulders so that the ads connect better with people. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has asked The Film and Television Producers Guild of India to allow its filmmakers to direct anti smoking ads featuring Bollywood celebs. What does the film frat think of the move? Let’s find out.
Director Onir gives it a thumbs-up, as he believes the film industry’s professionals would lend the ads the visual appeal they currently lack. “The ads are really badly done. If a good director makes it, the product will be much better. Also, having stars to endorse any social message always helps,” he says. Actor Manoj Bajpayee calls it a “fantastic” idea, and says: “Awareness is important. You have to keep boosting [it] with new ideas and development.”
However, filmmaker Hansal Mehta — who’s also a member of The Film and Television Producers Guild of India — is against the idea of using films as a platform “to make public service announcements”. He says, “This kind of regulation is unnecessary. Yes, smoking is an ill in the society, but I don’t know how effective it is to have it (an anti-smoking ad) before a film. Everything you don’t want people to do, you can’t use films as a excuse to propagate that.”
Actor Rajkummar Rao, a proud non smoker, also questions the effectiveness of such ads, nevertheless, calling it a good initiative. “I don’t know if people can quit smoking by seeing no smoking advertisements or what are the numbers but I am sure a lot of people still smoke. This is a good initiative and I am sure they (filmmakers) can come up with better stories that get presented in a better way,” he says.
The responsibility hanging on Bollywood’s head bothers director Vikramaditya Motwane, who questions: “They (I&B ministry) think that people will stop smoking when they see it in movies, what about anywhere else?” Once a smoker, Motwane adds: “I’m not sure whether people are affected when they see a hero smoking on the screen or not but I hate the idea of Bollywood being targeted for what should be a much larger propaganda?”
How about a point of view from someone from the advertising industry? “Nobody is trying to catch a 50-year-old’s attention who smokes 40 cigarettes a day. They are trying to catch a 18-year-old who might get hooked to smoking,” says ad guru Prahlad Kakkar. “When you have a Bollywood face in a film, it can get their (the youth’s) attention, who they follow and dress like or get their hair styled like. But it has to not only be a Bollywood face, but he or she can’t be playing a character, they have to be themselves and tell their story,” adds Kakkar.
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