Bollywood is encouraging youngsters to smoke. At least that’s what a survey, conducted by two health-related NGOs, has revealed. The survey states that 52% of youth, who take up smoking, do so due to the influence of regional cinema and Bollywood. This comes close on the heels of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzaarish coming under fire for showing Aishwarya Rai Bachchan lighting up.
While the two NGOs — the National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication (NOTE)-India and the Voluntary Health Association of Goa (VHAG) — are unabashedly blaming Bollywood, film-makers argue that banning smoking scenes would stifle ‘creative freedom.’
“What is more important? The creative freedom of the film industry or the destruction of 114 lives every hour from tobacco related diseases? Look at Guzaarish — the scene was unnecessary,” said Shekhar Salkar, general secretary, NOTE-India. The film’s producers, UTV Productions, defended, “it was a creative requirement of the script.”
Rajkumar Gupta’s upcoming film, No One Killed Jessica, which shows Rani Mukerji puffing away, is facing flak, too. But, Gupta has his argument ready. “Rani smoking in the movie is the demand of her character and has nothing do do with glorifying smoking.” Film-maker Mahesh Bhatt agrees: “Movies do have an influence on people, especially youngsters, but blaming Bollywood is not the solution.”
In the past, iconic films such as Devdas and Chameli have showed the film’s lead characters smoking. But, Anupama Chopra, film critic, maintains, “I won’t deny that films do glorify smoking, (but) I would never advocate censorship. It’s not fair.”
Three out of four Indian films show stars smoking
Youngsters are 16 times more likely to think positively about smoking if they see celebrities smoking
Teenagers who watch Bollywood characters smoke are 3 times as likely to do so themselves
It is estimated that 80% of the tobacco-related deaths in the next ten years will occur in India and China
6% of the films produced between 1991 and 2002 show tobacco use.