Picture this- Madhuri Dixit glides across the floor of a brightly lit room, acting as temptress for the object of her desire, Devdas (aka Shah Rukh Khan), who leers at her occasionally between quick swigs from an ethnic crystal wineglass, that contains fresh apple juice. Not really? Well how about Pepsi then? Does not really fit in, does it? Please excuse me for sounding absurd, but that is exactly the kind of scene that we may watch in future if the ban on drinking in movies is implemented.
With various media personalities like Amitabh Bachchan being vociferous about their opposition to the idea put forward by the Health Minister, the concept of banning drinking by actors is being thrashed left and right. The issue excites everyone and anyone who is interested in movies, actors, cinema and the arts, humanities, health, politics, and, of course, drinking. Popular sentiment goes against the ban. After all, whatever happened to the liberty of cinema, creativity and the imagination? Is not the art of movies based on its ability to project fiction underlined by reality? Time and again, we talk about the sensibility of the audience – it is us who have to decide how the media will actually affect our lives. Perhaps, the Health Ministry doubts our capability to differentiate between the good and the bad.
Now, now Mr. Ramadoss, I am aware of your concern for those who suffer from the ill effects of drinking, but fact remains – Devdas did not get high on apple juice. The story, script and playwright said that he consumed alcohol, and thus, he did so on screen too. If “Raj”, the down to earth, obedient son and the ideal man, went partying one night with his friends and turned sentimentally morose due to excess consumption of alcohol : well, yes, he did. Period. If not, are you willing to commit yourself to the task of personally changing the scripts of all the forthcoming movies to suit your ban? That in turn, could create a new kind of problem : prejudice. Bad and irresponsible people like the taste of alcohol, good people detest it. Rocky, the Casanova boy shall swear by it, while Pooja, the homely girl shall swear against it. But that is not how it is. That is not reality.
Reality is the fact that alcohol and cigarettes are more accessible to the average Indian than education. Reality lies in the lack of measures taken to provide necessary medical facilities in rural areas and the desperation to compensate for it by putting constraints on cinema. A scientific study may have revealed that 52 per cent of youth takes up smoking and drinking due to movies. But does that study also pinpoint the level of ignorance that a large population of the country suffers from, and other factors such as parents consumption of alcohol and peer pressure that accelerate consumption of alcohol in our youth?
A ‘ban’ is a much loathed word in a democracy, especially in a democracy like ours. It curbs people’s freedom, and their sense of independence, and so it needs to be implemented cautiously. A ban from showing an actor consuming alcohol may not stop a 16-year-old from downing his whiskey, but implementation of laws and the fear of a grave punishment will. All these rich sons of powerful men, and a few specific glamorous personalities who are notorious for causing car accidents, would not have driven, unless they had been confident, that in any case of check for alcohol levels in the blood, an average policeman would take a bribe. The solution does not lie in making more laws just because one has failed to implement the existing ones. It lies in the cooperation between the ministry and Censor Board, which together can take a middle ground. The suggestions being put forward by actors comprise careful scrutiny of the light in which alcohol consumption is being shown. It is a good idea, for it could calm our Health Minister and also, free the art of movie making from bizarre restrictions. Moreover, actors would become responsibly aware of their role as public figures. Yup, I’ll drink to that!
Sharanya Misra Sharma
[Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oisch/54115389/]