“She’s raw, understated, unrestrained and uncorrupted.” – Sukanya Verma, rediff.com
How often do you come across Bollywood movies which compel you to challenge your perspective and broaden your horizons? Kalki Koechin’s movies do this and more, but somehow end up with an impression that might not appeal to the members of generation X. This proposition is backed up by the fact that most of her movies have been given the ‘A’ certificate by CBFC. Yet this in no way makes her works any less remarkable and many critics believe that they are ‘classically underrated.’ Here is a close examination of some of her movies, which, owing to her exemplary acting skills and strong plot has been subjected to critical acclaim across the globe.
1. Margarita with a straw
In this movie, Kalki (Laila) plays the role of a free spirited cerebral palsy patient who embarks upon a journey to discover the world, explore her sexuality and eventually find herself. This social movie is a stroke of sheer genius because it analyses several underplayed issues which plague our society which include but are not limited to, gender issues, the constraints of physical disability and self- love. However, even though I am as unorthodox as one can get, the Indian in me felt the slightest bit uncomfortable whilst watching this movie. Perhaps this discomfort was because of the cultural schooling induced upon all of us since the beginning of time and we can’t really shrug it all off despite our best efforts. Yet the movie is driven by the unabashed confidence of a revolution in the making, and the numerous international awards that it has won speak for themselves.
In this thought provoking artistic movie, a newly wed Koechin (Tara Kapoor Deshpandey) is the protagonist alongside Nasarudeen Shah (Shiv Nataraj). Both of them cross paths when Tara’s husband, post a fatal road accident, is in intensive care in the same hospital where Shiv’s wife is battling comatose. Portraying an expressive and unapologetic young woman, Kalki is a natural. While talking about her loneliness at the time of adversity, she says “You know how many followers I have on twitter? 5900. And how many are here? Zero.” and the enigma of digital life cutting off our physical human contact couldn’t have been described any better. Yet bordering on morbidity, the movie highlights the ethics of medical practices as well as the dilemma every loved one of a critical patient goes through while keeping a solemn tone which might make many of us fidget about in our seats.
3. That Girl in Yellow Boots
A half English girl called Ruth travels to India with the primary objective of finding her father sans a photograph or any tipping information about him. She then is forced to take up a job as a massager to earn her livelihood and forges a love-hate relationship with a drug addict. This movie targets the overlooked minority of white people living in India and highlights the trials and tribulations that they go through on a daily basis. The storyline is kept rather ambiguous on purpose and there are instances of exposing the dark corners of the Indian society which can be upsetting to the conventional Indian.
Exposure to Tobacco Imagery Contributes to Smoking Habits Among Young Indians
Be it for the adrenaline-inducing endeavours of James Bond or the sharp-mindedness of Beena Tripathi from Mirzapur, much of cinema would be banal without its fair share of iconic characters. It’s no secret that the characters portrayed on screen and the actors playing them greatly influence box office revenues.
In South Indian cinema, the likes of Mohanlal, Ram Charan, Prabhas, among others, have long enjoyed success in the industry owing to their loyal fan-base. Bollywood, too, possesses its share of fan favourites in Nawazuddin Siddique, Pankaj Tripathi, and Vijay Varma, among others. The coalescence of fan-loyalty, coupled with ‘For the Fan’ content and industry rivalries, has blended a perfect brew for the industry’s survival.
But while producers and film industrialists work on selling their content to enthusiasts and the general audience, opinions surrounding the rebounding impact of characterisation, psychological idiosyncrasies, and moral conduct of characters within visual content across platforms, is unheard off.
A recent article in The Swaddle highlighted the necessity of having ‘Intimacy Co-ordinators’ on film sets to assist the actor and director in navigating the shooting of intimate scenes. Recent studies have also analysed dialogues, colourism, and gender inclusivity in Bollywood films and have found positive trends.
Despite this, questionable elements within visual content and controversial characters still seem to wield a significant influence on the general audience. One of the most contentious amongst them recognising the influence of smoking imagery in films and, more recently, Over-the-top (OTT) content on the audience.
Tobacco Imagery Compounds Smoking Habits Among Young Indians
Over the years, Bollywood movies and, more recently, OTT content has received scorn for embellishing smoking habits and encouraging them through compartmentalising genders. In recent years, mainstream content across various platforms has fixed a cigarette between the fingers of female and LGBTQIA+ characters as a marker for independence and strength – a change from the ’70s and ’80s where female characters smoking cigarettes were portrayed as ‘Vamps’ and ‘Degenerates’. While one could argue about the potential of this change ending up as another trope, tobacco consumption is still portrayed as a token of masculinity across mainstream content amongst male characters.
More recently, Kabir Singh, a Bollywood film starring actor Shahid Kapoor as the protagonist, received scrutiny as an embodiment of toxic masculinity. The film’s teaser poster displayed a silhouette picture of the central character holding two cigarettes between his lips, with a stethoscope around his neck. It is not a long shot to assume that many of these depictions eventually influence society sections.
Studies have concluded that tobacco imagery in visual content has resulted in increased tobacco consumption among young adults. A 2019 study, published in the BMJ Journal, found that popular content streamed across OTT platforms did not comply with Section 5 of India’s Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003 – amended in 2012. It noted. “None of the episodes in any season of these seven series, including the ones which featured historical characters (The Crown and Narcos), had anti-tobacco static warning messages, anti-tobacco health spots or displayed an audio-visual disclaimer about the ill effects of tobacco use” – 3 of the ten series analysed did not have any instance of tobacco usage.
The study analysed 188 episodes across ten series – selected after discussions with participants (15-24) in New Delhi – on Netflix and Amazon Prime for instances of tobacco use and brand appearances. It found that out of the 188 episodes analysed, 108 of them had at least an instance of tobacco use. Additionally, it noted that US-produced shows accounted for more tobacco usage instances than Indian shows like ‘Mirzapur’ and ‘Sacred Games’.
Addressing the portrayal of smoking imagery in visual content and its impact within social circles, an opinionated survey conducted by the author of this article rendered mixed views. The survey conducted through the medium of an online form garnered participants’ views (19-23). Out of 25 respondents, a majority of the participants (13) were of 20 years of age.
The survey recorded that 11 out of the 22 respondents felt that Smoking Imagery in visual content impacted their social circles, while ten did not witness any manifestation of its influence. One respondent did not provide an articulate answer.
Further, it also found that nine respondents believed that tobacco imagery across film and OTT platforms requires dilution, while 13 opined for a need to educate young viewers about film characterisation.
Besides, 56% of 25 respondents held that the personification and characterisation of smoking across film and T.V content contributed to smoking habits among Indian Youth. 68% believed that smoking scenes in films and OTT content affected Indian youth. 84% of the 25 respondents felt that drug/alcohol consumption disclaimers were not adequate to discourage viewers.
While research material concludes that tobacco imagery can prompt a viewer to take up smoking, the responsibility of integrating tobacco use in visual content and its rebounding impact on the viewers needs to be shouldered not only by content producers but also by viewers and cigarette brands.
Do Cigarette Candies Encourage Smoking Habits?
Candies provide nostalgia like no other. Be it for a tangy-sweet rock or flavourful dust candy that pops in your mouth, the thought of consuming candy will have undoubtedly left you with an insatiable appetite for sweetness. In recent years, however, the uptake in consumption of candies has thrown light upon the ill-effects of its consumption. Scientific research over the years has detailed the use of unhealthy amounts of sugar and preservatives in candy bars, with research also focusing on the fallout of candy consumption. Yet, candy consumption shows no signs of slowing down.
More recently, there has been a heated debate surrounding how cigarette candies inadvertently normalise smoking’s harmful effects. The growing consumption of mint candy cigarettes amongst children has left many concerned about its potential impact on their future. Many believe that cigarette candies’ production blurs the lines between the consumption of nicotine cigarettes and candy cigarettes amongst children.
Past research has concluded that cigarette candies’ desensitised’ children about the harmful repercussions of smoking. A 2007 study conducted among 25,887 US adults found that, at the time, 22% of the smokers had a history of consuming candy cigarettes while only 14% had little to no familiarity with cigarette candies.
Further, the packaging and ingredients of cigarette candies have been before met with furore. In the past, cigarette candy manufacturing companies have received criticism for hiding powdered sugar in the wrappers, creating the illusion of ‘real smoking’. Moreover, cigarette candies do not comprise healthy ingredients either. ‘Phantom Cigarettes’, a famous candy cigarette brand in India, composes 75-80% sugar while the rest 20% comprises glucose and gelatin – excessive consumption of which can produce long-term health problems.
The amalgamation of these repercussions has led to the ban of cigarette candies in many countries across the globe. In India, cigarette candies are still sold at local shops and even online.
Research over the years has pointed out that Tobacco imagery influences smoking habits. The absence of strict action against the violators of tobacco laws within visual content and the general disregard concerning passive smoking and the production of candy cigarettes may result in a ‘Health epidemic’ WHO estimates that smoking causes 7 million deaths per year, with low and middle-income countries accounting for 80% of these deaths. Hence, smoking prevention is a global health priority, and it is indispensable, now more than ever, to discourage smoking and move towards a healthier lifestyle.
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Bombay high court slams BMC for illegal demolition of Kangana Ranaut’s Property
Bombay High Court has granted relief to Kananga Ranaut in a plea filed against Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for demolishing her Bandra office property. High Court condemned BMC by quoting that the officials had acted with malice in destroying the part of Ranaut’s bungalow.
The court also noted that Ms Ranaut would also be compensated for the damage caused by the demolition by appointing a valuer who would determine orders regarding compensation value.
On September 9th the BMC had smashed a part of Ms Ranaut’s office in a bungalow at Pali Hill, Bandra .The actor alleged the development happened after her remarks of feeling unsafe in Mumbai and comparing it with Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
Following, we see an exchange of derogatory verbal fights between the Maharashtra state government members and Kangana Ranaut. The opposition, including BJP criticised the state government’s use of police power against any criticism. The BJP led centre government also provided Ms Ranaut with Y-plus category of CRPF personnel for her safe return in Mumbai
In petition, Ms Ranaut argued for illegal demolition of her property by BMC who according to her, is controlled and influenced by the ruling state government.
A division bench of Justices SJ Kathawalla and RI Chagla said “MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) has proceeded on wrongful grounds, against the rights of the citizens. It is nothing but malice in law“. The court also commented “it does not approve of authorities using “muscle power” against any citizen.”
High court further allowed Ms Ranaut to take measure for making her property habitable again, given that it is compliance with the approved plan. An application must be made to BMC for approval which will be decided in weeks. BMC cannot regularise any action until the application disposed of the appointed valuer.
Kangana Ranaut’s and opposition reaction:
Ms Ranaut, who is publicly critical of the state government applauded High Court’s decision by calling it not only a victory of an individual but of democracy.
However, High Court observed that “Kangana Ranaut should show restraint in airing her opinions on the government” and further added irresponsible statement made by a citizen in an individual capacity, however distasteful or wrong they may be, are best ignored.
Following the decision, Devandra Fadavis, former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, said “they should realise now that not every voice against the government can be crushed this way.”
He further asked “Will the government call the SC and HC desh drohi (anti-national)?”. He took a dig at Uddhav Thackerey and said “If you speak against the government on social media, you are put under arrest. Such is the condition in Maharashtra. I have never seen a CM who keeps threatening people.”
Given the political conflict and loose statements from Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, the high court said: “Such conduct certainly does not befit a leader like Shri Raut who is also a Parliamentarian.”
Mr Raut, also the spokesperson of Shiv Sena adhering to High court decision, said “I still respect the court’s decision. The law should be equal for all.”
In another case against Kangana Ranaut and her sister Rangoli, High court questions the use of sedition charges 124A of Indian penal code in FIR filed by Mumbai.
Expressing concerts, Justice Shinde asked Mumbai Police’s representative “If anybody doesn’t not fall in line within the government, will that be sedition?”. Justice further emphasised by repeating “Are you treating citizens of the country like this? 124A?”
Justice Shinde further asked why police is invoking such a section in such cases concerning several inadequate matters.
“You conduct proper workshops for officers as to which sections should be invoked,” Justice Shinde told the advocate.
What is sedition in 124A?
Sedition, a British imperial code, acts as a non-bailable offence against any person by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India.
The code is heavily criticised for its misuse and curbing of freedom of speech. Mahatma Gandhi himself called it “the prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen.”
The supreme court and High courts have repeatedly observed that sedition can be only be invoked to penalise criticism of actions of the government when it encourages people to resort violence or have the motivation of creating public disorder.
Mumbai Mayor’s comment:
The elected chief of the BMC Kishori Pednekar of Shiv Sena gives critical remarks by saying “Everyone is surprised that an actor comes to Mumbai, from Himachal Pradesh, and calls it PoK. Then there are complaints against her. Do takke ke log (insignificant people) want to turn the court into a political chaos. This is wrong.”
#WATCH: Everyone is surprised that an actress who lives in Himachal, comes here & calls our Mumbai PoK… such 'do takke ke log' want to make Courts arena for political rivalry, it's wrong: Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar on Bombay HC setting aside BMC notices to Kangana Ranaut https://t.co/DZi7GVeFI2 pic.twitter.com/UPlLvygIxI
— ANI (@ANI) November 27, 2020
Ms Pednekar further accepted to adhere court’s ruling with all respect.
In reply to Mayor’s remark, Kangana Ranaut tweeted:
In a big of win of legal proceeding, Ranaut and opposition welcomes High Court orders whereas the ruling party seems to accept the same. Presently, it is unclear if BMC will approach supreme court challenging High Court’s ruling.
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