“Dum Maro Dum” while you still can, on celluloid at least

October 3, 2008

Normally, I do not care much for actor Rajinikanth’s bullet splitting or his iconic cigarette flip. 
pic1.jpgBut as the government gears up to implement the ban on smoking in public places, I realise that the “long arm of the law” (apparently an all-time favourite dialogue of the celluloid police) may one day also extend to Bollywood.
Having grown up on the antics of Bollywood’s Supermen with their rakish head tilts and outrageous stunts, I cannot help but feel a twinge of fear at the thought of the censor board ever sanitizing on-screen smoking scenes.
Try as I might, I cannot imagine a docile, law abiding on-screen Rajinikanth sans his unbelievable cigarette stunt.

In my college years it gave us women endless joy to see male classmates end up red-faced while trying to imitate the southern hero.

Why smoke at all if you cannot toss the cigarette in air, let it flip thrice, catch it with your lips and light it with a single match stick scraped carelessly on your boot. 
Ajit in those days was the cigar-puffing gentleman gangster in numerous Bollywood movies with henchmen whose collective intelligence was nothing to write home about.
His characteristic nasal twang and deadpan expression became a rage in the 70s.

The pic2.jpgcigar between his teeth became as much a part of his persona as his hilarious punch lines directed mostly at his moll ‘Mona darling’. 
If smoking scenes are ever censored in Indian movies, I’m afraid the famous “Dum Maro Dum” song from the 70’s popular flick “Hare Rama Hare Krishna” – a soul cry for all smokers of dope – would be the first one on the chopping block.
No film has ever managed to simultaneously glorify and mock the “Flower Children” generation as much as this Dev Anand-Zeenat Aman flick with its vivid scenes of a hippie commune swaying to trance music in a drugged stupor .
I always found it interesting that very few leading men in the 60s and 70s were ever shown taking an occasional puff.

The Hindi film industry has always considered smoking a vice perfected by the villains and vamps.
Bollywood’s poor-but-proud heroes dared to rescue damsels from burning buildings, jump from a 30-feet-high ropeway on to jagged mountain slopes, even wear dandy red spotted scarves around their necks, but never risk their image smoking on screen.
Unless of course he happened to be actor Dev Anand playing the foul-mouthed ruffian taxi driver with a heart of gold.

Audiences were more than willing to forgive the occasional ‘bidi’ of the handsome Anand romancing the innocently seductive Kalpana Kartik in the film ‘Taxi Driver’.  
pic3.jpgAnother 1961 blockbuster “Hum Dono” starring Anand gave smokers their legendary devil-may-care song “Mai Zindagi Ka Saath”.   
I think the generation of cigar-smoking suave villains of Bollywood with their three-piece suits is gone. 

They have taken with them the classy vamps with their long thin cigarettes in ornate holders.

These days guns no longer look like potato peelers and smoking scenes are more realistic.

This is the age of the Don who carries more than an attitude. Packed with the latest gadgets of devilry, the neo-villain casually lights a cigarette, unhesitatingly inhales the smoke and performs deadly martial arts stunts in Malaysia. 
So much so that Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss appealed to superstar Shah Rukh Khan to avoid smoking scenes in his films, citing examples of children who take their first puff of a cigarette to ape their favourite movie stars.
I think it’s nice that the government is finally doing something to save the passive smokers.
I am all for a few additional years to my life by being bullied into smoking less, unless of course I get blown to bits by a bomb first – which seems a more likely ending these days.   
But I shudder to think of the day the government directs its zeal towards the celluloid. 
If scenes depicting smoking in films are ever targeted, can those with a rustic Amitabhpic4.jpg Bachchan chewing betel leaf and singing “Khaike Paan Bana” escape unscathed?
What will stop the censor board from chopping off scenes depicting drunken heroes wooing their leading ladies, since drinking is also presumably bad for health?
But then what is Bollywood without its charming idiosyncrasies and its own share of vices? I will not even go into the artistic freedom debate.   
All this is my apprehension of course.

Till the time it happens I will lose myself in the vicarious “high” of Zeenat Aman professing “dum” as the curer of all sorrows.


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Very nicely done. I do believe that trying to curb smoking everywhere, even is fantasy (as is the case in movies) is a step bit too far. The banning of smoking in public however, is commendable effort with one less toxin to breath in on our already polluted cities. Lets hope the public has the sense to realise the good intention behind the ban.

Posted by ramk | Report as abusive

i really do not agree with this comment that banning smoking will help in any ways yes it will help to curb social smoking but cant stop smoker to smoke…

Posted by Amit Daga | Report as abusive

I think this new law is a Joke like any other law in India. India is world famous for its list of laws but when it comes to reinforcement, India is a GLOBAL JOKE. They can not reinforce the 1000’s of laws they have on the book today how will they reinforce this one ?
Besides the truth is that all Major India cities are so polluted that one research showed that breathing air in those cities a day is equal to smoking a pack of cigarettes ! If the GOV really cares about peoples health it should first lower air pollution and then educate young kids on the effects of smocking. This is very effective as they will grow up not wanting to smoke, its worked well in US and many other developed nations where smokers are on a decline.

Posted by Dharam | Report as abusive

Smoking is bad, say most politically and socially correct individuals. So is imposing once’s wishes on others — that too by force. How are these people different from gun-weilding terrorists? They also want their wishes imposed on others. When Taliban tells you to dress in certain manner, behave in certain way, world rises against that. No-smoking policy is nothing more than grandiose idea of some Taliban-type men, lapped up by most ignorant blindmen.

Posted by prakash jha | Report as abusive

I wonder if the last one is a smoker’s passionate comment..

Posted by ONP | Report as abusive

As smoking is dangerious to health. So smoking should be banned. Even govt should take another strong step in that direction by closing all companies producing tobaco and stop importing tobaco.

Posted by kishore | Report as abusive

Even though smoking is bad for your health, it is an individual’s choice to smoke. Therefore, smoking bans are against an individual’s freedom to screw up their lives. What next? Banning fatty foods? Banning alchoholic beverages? Those can kill others too.

And no, I’m not a somker. I don’t drink either. I just realize that taking away a person’s personal freedom for the greater good for society, even in the name of “your own good” is a gateway for more government interference. Also, no smoking in movies should be up to the movies and shoudl be decided by the consumer. The govenrment has no business telling a business what it should produce. Also, smoking in period pieces, like those movies that take place in the 20’s – 50’s should be a part of the movie because you, know, that’s what everyone did at thet time.

Posted by kris | Report as abusive

Smoking is dangerous to health, no doubt about that. But isn’t it too far to ban smoking completely, as it curbs your freedom and rights. Instead of banning smoking completely in places like restaurants, bars, pubs, offices,etc. a secluded area may be set up for those who want to smoke. Here they will not be harming others if not themselves. Doing this the passive smokers will be protected and the rights of the smokers will also not be infringed. Also the Govt. should put more effort into education of youngsters against smoking and not keep asking those who amoke to quit.In the end it all come to rights and freedom.

Posted by sandeep | Report as abusive

cigarette smoking is injurious to health leading to cancer. Ban is likely to save thousands of young lives from the clutches of cancer. Kudos to Union Health Minister of Indian Govt.

Posted by surinderriat | Report as abusive

You can enjoy your freedom untill you hurt others. Can any one blow a bomb in a street. If that could harm others and so if not to be done on streets, then smoking should also be banned and should be considered as a crime against others. Instead of researching on the other reasons for pollution, why not the most possible way to affect other peoples health be banned. And i think that the freedom of smokers is no way taken away by the law. They have a facility to smoke in smoke chambers, which can be arranged in pubs, restaurants and other entertainment halls if there are more than 30 smokers. i keep a salute to H’bl Minister Anbumani Ramdoss for his great effort. And the support from censor board is much needed as no new smoker is born because of the taste of a cigar but from the passion he attains from environment. And if the public smoking is banned the only source one can get attracted is the media which should be also forbidden from revealing it. Even if this law does not stop smokers it can reduce the burden on non smokers.

Posted by Shibu | Report as abusive

Now you all people are speaking of rights of smokers. Come to think of it that these smokers have absolute disregard and disrespect to the right of fresh air of non-smokers. If you all are so fond of smoking and killing yourself, please go ahead and do it. Why subject non-smokers to second hand smokers.
Next you will say ogling and groping women is also a fundamental right of all men. After all what harm can a petty stare do to a women? When simple and fundamental rights are ignored by mindless animals they have to be implemented by bringing them under the jurisdiction of the law.

Posted by nadeem | Report as abusive

Laws in India! Give me a break!! More than 60%, may be even 90%, of our lok sabha is filled with all sorts of corrupt people and law breakers, with many even being hardcore criminals, killers, rapists,extortionists.

Who will enforce this law? Our police.
Atleast they will get one more source of illegal income by hassling helpless citizens.

H’ble Health minister of India is putting up a gimmick for increasing his votes or he has nothing to do. Half of the population doesn’t have access to proper healthcare. All government doctors have illegal private practices. Double standards. Worried about about smoking.
Mr highly honorable minister – There are far more important things to correct or improve in this country, if you really want to do something. Believe me, smoking is the least of your worries.

Posted by mumbler | Report as abusive

One more success mantra initiation by central government…!!! as the poles approach the government has started to take action which appeals to mass. But its appreciable that government has woken up atlast by now to initiate actions in public concern.As long as these gimmicks are benifiting the common man ,they are always welcome.

Posted by 13 warriors | Report as abusive

But the ban in the name of saving humanity from the addiction has great meaning. Hopefully it will be without fanaticism. And be moderate.

Posted by StopSmokerMen | Report as abusive