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‘Sarkar’ Poster: Anbumani Ramadoss’ Fight Against Smoking In Films

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Stars like Vijay are reminded from time to time of the seminal quote, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Right now, it’s Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, the youth wing president of the PMK, who has taken it upon himself to remind Vijay of his responsibility. As soon as Vijay’s Sarkar poster was released, he tweeted this:

While Vijay and the film’s director, AR Murugadoss, have to deal with a PIL against the film’s poster, Tamil Nadu’s Public Health Department will review the action taken by the Sarkar team to remove posters that show Vijay smoking. Meanwhile, Ramadoss has said that going after an actor’s film poster is not personal.

“During the year 2003-04, the World Health Organization (WHO) sponsored a LANCET Study, a survey report. In that report, statistics revealed that 52 percent Indians get introduced to smoking only due to cinema stars,” he was quoted as saying. Hence the umbrage.

In fact, campaigns against smoking and drinking on-screen have been his pet projects when Ramadoss was the Union Health Minister under the first UPA government.

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He spearheaded the ban on portrayal of smoking or use of tobacco in films and television serials in 2005 and the no-smoking rule in public places. Not many in the film industry were happy about the ban saying that it’s a curb on creative freedom. The minister had also gotten into the habit of appealing to stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan to stop smoking in films.

While Bachchan’s response was this: “All I request the minister is to focus on his own people. By asking Shah Rukh Khan or me to quit smoking or alcohol in our cinema, an attempt is being made to tarnish the image of the film industry. That should not happen,” Shah Rukh Khan had told The Times of India, “I saw it in the news that Mr Ramadoss feels that Mr Bachchan and I should not be smoking on screen. I truly agree with that, I think it’s a great thought. More than that, I wish Mr Ramadoss prays that I stop smoking in real life. That’s worse – in movies we just do it for make believe,” adding that creative freedom that should be allowed in cinema without picking on little things.

But Ramadoss had remain undaunted and had later said, “I am not against Shah Rukh Khan or Amitabh Bachchan, who had come out against me for tirade against tobacco and liquor. In fact, they are brand ambassadors for the Health Ministry’s programmes. I want to know whether films will not run without smoking and drinking scenes.”

Back in Tamil Nadu, Rajinikanth, who made cigarette flicking his signature move, had threatened to take legal action against Dr. S Ramadoss, Anbumani Ramadoss’ father and leader of the PMK, over his remarks against the actor ahead of the release of Baba. According to The Hindu, the senior Ramadoss had said during a party meeting, “cigarette-flicking and boozing Rajinikant was misguiding youth”.

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In 2005, Mahesh Bhatt had filed a petition challenging the last notified Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Regulation Act (COTPA) banning smoking in films, following which the Delhi High Court struck down the ban on smoking in films in 2009. As per the latest guidelines, film certification should indicate if there are smoking scenes in the film and there should be a health scroll before and after the scene, according to The Times Of India. Remember the time when the release of Blue Jasmine was cancelled in India because its filmmaker, Woody Allen had refused to include the health scroll in the reel?

Controversies ahead of Vijay’s film release is nothing new. The brouhaha over the GST scene in Mersal last year worked in its favour. This time, too, it is helping build interest for the film that is set to release on Diwali.

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