India’s recent decision to ban smoking in movies and on television has ignited controversy in the popular Bollywood film industry, despite government officials’ claims that such scenes glamorize tobacco use.
Bollywood, the most prolific film producer in the world, has a long history of portraying heroes and villains with cigarettes or hand-rolled “bidis” dangling from their lips.
But starting October 2, new films and television shows will be prohibited from showing actors smoking.
While some actors have expressed support for the new restrictions, filmmakers claim that the government is infringing on artistic expression. Indian director Shekhar Kapur, who helmed the 1997 Oscar-nominated film “Elizabeth,” expressed concerns that the new regulations could lead to further censorship.
“The Indian government has always thought themselves able to do whatever they feel is necessary to curtail artistic freedoms,” Kapur said. “The fear is not that we have to stop showing people smoking. The fear is that this is the beginning of a series of bans.”
Even Censor Board chief Sharmila Tagore called it “a decision taken in haste and very unaesthetic in taste…”