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Anti-Smoking Disclaimer Should Appear Only Once, Suggests Shyam Benegal Committee

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Director Shyam Benegal Image Courtesy: Shyam Benegal's Wikipedia page

The Shyam Benegal Committee, headed by the director himself to revamp the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), has suggested that the anti-smoking disclaimer need appear only once at the beginning of the film. The committee felt that by using only one “meaningful static warning“, the film’s narrative would not get disrupted while at the same time, display the mandatory anti-tobacco message from the Health Ministry.

The disclaimers were carried out earlier every time a scene showed a character smoking. The revising committee comprising of Kamal Haasan, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, and Piyush Pandey among others, recently submitted the second part of its report pertaining to anti-smoking warnings and the use of animals in films, to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Further, filmmakers from the panel suggested that the film industry in consultation with the Health ministry should make small films on the subject to be screened in theatres and on television.

According to an Indian Express report, the panel handed over the first part of the report on April 26, stating that CBFC should restrict itself to being a certification body that only categorises the suitability of the film based on the age group of the viewers.

With respect to the anti-smoking warnings, back in 2013 under Rule 4(7) and 8 of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, the Union government had written a letter to the censor board asking it to make it mandatory for filmmakers to show the disclaimer during smoking scenes. This was challenged by filmmaker Anurag Kashyap in 2014 when he refused to put the disclaimer in his film Ugly. His petition at the Bombay High Court implored the rule to be set aside, calling it “illegal, arbitrary and unconstitutional“.

Eventually, after several months of negotiations, Kashyap released the film in December 2014 with the “Smoking is Injurious to Health” sign. But, Kashyap continues to ridicule the ubiquitous disclaimer, even sharing an incident that pointed out the ludicrousness of having the disclaimer pop up every time someone lit a cigarette on screen.

Thus far, the 8-member revising committee is looking to display the static warning in all languages. In addition to this, the committee also suggested the guidelines for using animals in films, recommending ‘licensed suppliers’ for providing the animals. This also means when the ‘no objection’ certificate takes its time, producers could approach a ‘certified personnel’ from the Animal Welfare Board of India to avoid further delays.

Meanwhile, the second part of the recommendations of the committee will be available in public domain soon, by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

Photo credit: Shyam Benegal Wikipedia Page

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