The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Singed cinema won’t give up without fight

Mumbai, June 16: A detox drive is injurious to the entertainment industry.

Following the Centre’s diktat yesterday that smoking would be banned from all screens, big and small, a fuming film and television industry has started hectic lobbying for a review of the ban.

Industry members felt that while a rollback ' at least a partial one ' is a distinct possibility, the issue at stake is creative freedom, being threatened on all sides by extreme forms of political correctness. Or politics.

The Film and Television Producers’ Guild of India, an industry body that has heavyweight producers like Yash Chopra, Karan Johar and Rakesh Roshan as its active members, today said a meeting will be convened shortly between information and broadcasting minister S. Jaipal Reddy, industry stakeholders and government officials.

The association said I&B secretary S.K. Arora has assured Amit Khanna, the president of the guild, that “the interest of the stakeholders will be given due consideration before the implementation of the ban”.

It is not only tobacco smoke that is clouding the film-makers’ horizon, but a number of other causes that aim to detoxify public life. “Several other issues that are often raised by various non-government organisations from time to time, like depiction of animals in films or of minorities, will also be discussed at the meeting,” said a spokesperson.

Shashi Ranjan, who heads Indian Television Academy, was more vociferous. A delegation from the television industry will also meet Reddy to request him to exert pressure for retracting the ban, he said. The industry is shocked by the ban on smoking, but is more apprehensive about what is in the offing, Ranjan said.

“Everyone is a censor when it comes to films and television. If there is a ban on smoking on screen today, tomorrow there may be one on consuming alcohol. There is no end to things that can be banned,” he said.

“The entertainment industry is a soft target. We are tired of attacks that are prompted by the depiction of minority communities or protests from animal rights groups. Films are held guilty of promoting communalism even when a film like Jo Bole So Nihaal was cleared twice by the censor board,” Ranjan said.

“The way animal rights activists protest, there will be a demand to put scrollers at the bottom of the screen when a bullock cart is shown.”

Film-maker Ashok Pandit, who called a meeting of the television industry last week on the issue, described the ban as ridiculous and draconian. “We will file a public interest litigation,” he said.

Pandit pointed to the additional cost of telecasting old films featuring scenes in which people are shown smoking. More hands will be needed to monitor films while they are being telecast to add the scrolls containing the warnings against smoking.

However, the film-maker clarified that the issue is not the cost or the changes that will be brought into scripts. “It looks like a move towards Emergency.”

Veteran film-maker Aziz Mirza simply termed the ban “stupid”.

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