Woody Allen by Mayank Chhaya
First the bare facts. Then a feeble attempt at humor. Quite like Woody Allen’s movies. ( A gratuitous crack at Allen because he is obviously so funny.)
Woody Allen’s ‘Blue Jasmine’ will not be shown in India because the filmmaker does not want to follow the country’s guidelines requiring a statutory scroll under scenes where characters smoke. Perhaps the scroll says something like “Cigarette smoking is injurious to your health” or a version of that statutory warning. India’s film censorship laws make the scroll mandatory for all movies where characters smoke.
Media reports say that rather than complying with the guidelines, Allen thinks he is better off not running the film there at all. In The New York Times’ India Blog Singdha Poonam quotes Deepak Sharma, the chief operating officer at PVR Cinemas which had acquired its distribution rights, as saying, “We conveyed to the filmmaker that the censor board has suggested a customary scroll at the bottom for the smoking scenes, but he did not want any changes in the reel.He felt that the smoking by the characters enhanced those scenes, but we have to go by the law of the land.”
Those are the bare facts. Now my feeble attempt at humor.
Those who go to watch Allen’s movies in India cannot be influenced one way or the other by the statutory scroll. They know about the harmful effects of tobacco and might smoke irrespective. Or they know about the harmful effects of tobacco and don’t smoke even without the statutory scroll.
I am reasonably sure that they do not go to watch just the statutory scroll in the off chance that a movie might be running above it, although it is not that strange to find people who enjoy that scroll much more. The chances that those who go to watch Allen’s movies not being fully aware of the harm that smoking causes are, and I am going out on a limb here, zero. This would be true of those who go to watch almost any movie, including ‘Grand Masti.’ Now that is one fucking injurious shit. And I can tell you even without watching it. (Humor).
If the idea is to have a subtext to anything that might have the potential for harm, why not have a scroll that says “Corruption is injurious to everybody’s health, especially those who are not corrupt” every time a movie depicts a politician? How about a warning that says “Sex/fornication may lead to unwanted pregnancy” under all intimate scenes, including when the hero and heroine first meet?
I believe the issue of smoking being injurious to human health is a settled one in so much as awareness about it goes. Any activity that involves sticking tobacco rolled up inside a paper stick in one’s mouth, lighting it and then inhaling smoke from it would be registered by the human brain as not particularly good. However, its cool factor is undeniable because of precisely those very reasons. Having smoked pens, pencils, tree twigs and even imaginary cigarettes (everything except real cigarettes) I can tell you that there is something compelling to that whole choreography of smoking. Even the flipping of a cigarette butt with the thumb and the middle finger has an irresistible draw.
The Indian government should know that smoking predates filmmaking and will probably outlast it. I am not an advocate of smoking at all. I have never smoked in my life. But that does not prevent me from defending the rights of those who want to smoke for any number of reasons, including because it looks cool and they love cancer. It is not necessarily one thing that makes it cool but if I were to pick one, it would be the smoke and how it rises with swagga from one’s mouth.
I think Allen should have just gone ahead with the scroll because no one looks at it anyway. I have not seen the film. So I could not tell you if smoking is so preponderant in it that the scroll may never leave. One way or the other, those who want to watch ‘Blue Jasmine"’ in India will do so. It is India after all, where circumvention is the norm.
P.S.: Did you see how I have cleverly used all the key search words as the headline to the post?