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Last orders: Devdas with a disclaimer

india Updated: May 10, 2013 18:11 IST
Serena Menon

It seems no one has taken a beating for our bad lifestyle habits quite like Bollywood has. Ranbir Kapoor has to pop open nameless bottles of champagne (in a song in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani) and Saif Ali Khan has been forced to bite a bullet, no pun intended, instead of a cigar in the poster of Go Goa Gone.

These aren’t issues the industry faced 50 years ago. The lyrics, Har fikr ko bullet mein udata chala gaya, just wouldn’t have the same ring to it. The original track from Hum Dono (1961) has Dev Anand glancing at his own reflection in a river, shaving his beard. He finishes, lights a cigarette and sings away. The song drove the ladies crazy, but not the Censor Board. There was no disclaimer about the harm caused by smoking on the screen. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be warned; sure they should.

But shouldn’t a director, an artiste, who tells his story on a medium as expensive as film, be allowed to present his movie in a way he best sees fit? But this is an old rant. Currently, I’m just glad that there aren’t any filmmakers planning to remake Devdas again. The thought of seeing the heartbroken protagonist drink away his sorrows with a disclaimer declaring how bad alcohol is in our faces through the movie will be laughable.

But this day may not be far, if the Health Ministry has its way (as it often does). It seems to have already started in Tamil films. A disclaimer stares at you in a scene where Dhanush is guzzling a glass of golden liquid in the video of Kolaveri di from the film, 3.

Earlier this week, a news report revealed that the Health Ministry has been contemplating issuing a warning against scenes that show alcohol consumption. Filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj, whose films would be rather incomplete without alcohol, reacted aptly. He was quoted saying, “If that happens, I will surely go on a hunger strike.”

There aren’t many things you can do on a night out in Mumbai. Watching a film is an emergency button for many. But, in the last few years, the movie-watching experience in this country, even as it celebrates Indian cinema’s 100 years, is becoming quite pathetic.

Bringing together the industry in a tacky song with Bollywood’s finest (the much-publicised Bombay Talkies anthem) isn’t what’s needed. Rethinking our censorship rules, making film-watching as exciting as getting a drink, just might be.

For all that movies are worth, and these days, that’s in the range of R400 a ticket, they are hardly responsible for introducing us to immoral habits like cigarettes, alcohol or so-called alluring lifestyles. We have a world full of information and exposure at our fingertips for that. And those life experiences don’t come with disclaimers.