The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The state government has taken the addiction to alcohol and tobacco by the horns. A ban on the depiction of liquor consumption and smoking in government-aided Marathi films will come into effect on Tuesday to mark the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Sachin Ahir, minister for social justice and de-addiction activities, on Monday said, “The government will not allow any Marathi film to show characters drinking liquor or smoking cigarettes on the silver screen.”
The ban will be restricted to Marathi films which get an aid of Rs25 lakh from the state government.
The secretary of the cultural department said, “There are guidelines for films in all languages, including Hindi, to display a statutory warning — ‘Smoking is injurious to health’ — while showing a character puffing a cigarette. In case of Marathi cinema, there are directives to blur scenes when a character drinks or smokes.
But blurring of images and a statutory warning, argued Ahir, do not serve the purpose of convincing addicts to kick the butt or give up their daily fix of alcohol. “On the contrary, the audience, especially those from an impressionable age group, doesn’t even pay heed to statutory warnings.”
He said the government had taken the decision keeping in mind youth welfare. “The films play an important role in influencing youngsters. They cannot discriminate between reel and real life heroes and follow in the footsteps of silver screen characters.”
Sources in the finance ministry took the state’s decision with a pinch of salt. “As long as the de-addiction campaign is restricted to cinema, it (the ban) works. But if, gradually, everybody gives up drinking and smoking, it would cost the state a massive revenue,” warned a source. The government earns a revenue of Rs6,851 crore from sale of liquor.
Ahir, however, believes that revenue can be raised through other avenues. “Gandhian principles do not allow smoking and drinking.”