Why has the Superstar shifted to chewing gum?

The Superstar has stopped flicking cigarettes and has switched to chewing gum. One reason behind this might have been the Central Government’s ban on smoking on screen. Other reasons might be sporadic protests by some activist groups saying that Superstar was having a bad effect on youngsters throughout the state. The decision might also have stemmed from the conscience of Superstar who we hear has since quit his long standing smoking habit. Shahrukh Khan is still struggling to come to terms with the smoking ban in public and seems to get caught in the public eye puffing away. Even he has made no secret of his many futile attempts to kick the butt out of his life. There cannot be doubt that ‘smoking is injurious to health’ and that banning it in any form, on screen or off it, has to be welcome. Now, before I start to sound like Anbumani Ramadoss, let’s get to the point.

The first point towards enforcing a public smoking ban and towards reducing the consumption of tobacco in the country was taken by banning smoking on screen. There

was the opinion that seeing stars smoke on screen was leading people astray, everyone agreed with this, and no one seemed to differ. Tobacco’s prevalence in society was attributed at least partly to cinema and its stars. While this may not be without an element of truth, I feel that its magnitude is grossly miscalculated. The point here is not smoking, drinking or any other form of addiction. It is about how at all times cinema and sometimes TV is the favorite punching bag when it comes to looking for reasons for something bad in society.

How many times have you heard that on-screen violence is making the younger generation more disposed towards violent behavior? Or, how often has TV been accused of making couch potatoes out of children and people of almost all age groups? How often have we heard about cinema weaning the youngsters away from the Indian way of life and infusing western tastes in them?

Claiming that cinema has bad influences is not completely wrong. It has its share of fallacies. Cinema, the medium and the stars in it, have the power and stature to influence the way we think. But is too much being made of this influence. Can one point to a particular movie or a star and place on it the blame for the manner in which some people choose to conduct themselves? If the influential power of cinema and stars is so great then why don’t the good things shown on screen get adopted in real life? Why does it have to be only the tobacco, alcohol, teenage romance and violence that influence people? Why not social activism, patriotism or honesty?

There is a tendency to think that cinema shows and encourages only the ‘bad’. That is far from the truth. We have had many wonderful films over the decades, many of them commercially successful, that have tried to inspire us to do good and great things. We have had movies that raised pertinent social questions and shook our very consciences, but no one ever claimed to have got inspired from any one of them.

Movies like Roja, Rang De Basanti, Aayudha Ezhuthu, Swades, Anbay Sivam, Bombay, Taare Zameen Par etc. are ones with tremendous potential to inspire us and to make us think (if not act) about issues like national integration, youth activism, rural-urban divides and child education. The movies are watched, appreciated and forgotten. Why, even Superstar’s Sivaji had something to tell about corruption and black money (of course, the director did have his own style of telling it) and more importantly NRI activism in our country. In spite of such huge positive messages, what is remembered and recreated in real life is the hairstyle, the cool costumes, the swank sunglasses, the cigarettes, the one liners and many other elements that haven’t an iota of substance. What is meant to be left inside theaters is carried home and what has to be carried home is forgotten in theaters! Now, we can’t blame movies if we choose to be influenced by only the superficial elements.

In the movie Swades, Shahrukh Khan plays the role of Mohan Bhargav, a NASA scientist who leaves his job to return to his village to help alleviate its suffering uneducated people. In normal course, every single action of Shahrukh has a million emulators, be it in the clothes, hairstyles or brands. But one never heard of Mohan Bhargav being emulated. The most that has happened in terms of a positive influence being taken out of cinema is the formation of Lok Parithran, a political party founded by IIT alumni to ensure zero corruption. The inspiration seems to have come from Yuva and Rang De Basanti. But that too melted away into oblivion, and not having heard of it in a long time my guess is that it is now defunct.

If stars can make youngsters take up smoking, drinking, fighting and ‘sighting’, why can’t they inspire the same kind of enthusiasm in education or blood donation? India still has an alarming rate of increase in HIV + individuals and there are still polio affected children, while stars of all sizes have tried to raise awareness. Why does this happen? Because it is not cinema that has the wrong influence on people, it is people who choose to be influenced the wrong way, the easier way. Ultimately, it is about an individual’s choices

Respond to

Behindwoods is not responsible for the views of columnists.

Why should Trisha & Nayantara get slapped?
Rajini wants to be part of the change!
In The Shadow of the Arc Light
Dasavatharam – why it didn’t work for me
Artistically hooked
Unlikely Kollywood Villains
Why Superstar shifted to chewing gum?
The Indian Oscar dream
The forgotten hero!
Reacting to Rajini's 'Kick'!
The message of Kalifulla Khan
Time to review freedom of expression!
Is Taare Zameen Par worthy to be sent to Oscars?
The majentha shirt hero!
Can Ajith & Vijay revive the TRPs?
The Chennai bred six-pack!
‘Unblocking the creativity block’
Fourth Dimension
The Kamals and Rajinis who never made it
Why did Venkat Prabhu name it Saroja ?
Script and direction are as crucial as stars
The Dasavatharam answer to all the critical clamor