Of Smoking, and Indian visual media

The Indian Health Ministry has for some time now tried to enforce anti-smoking rules to Indian visual media, with the brunt being borne by the movie industry. The Ministry’s point seems to be that people in general, and the youth in particular, look up and learn from Indian movie stars, and watching their heroes smoke on screen encourages them to do the same.

Well, how is that supposed to work? Cinema invariably displays a range of actions and emotions, and not all of it positive. Did the ministry object to Dhoom or Dhoom 2 because it glamorised stealing? What about Bunty Aur Babli, which glamorized fraud? If the youth can make sense of such morals, surely they can also be expected to make sense of the cigarette?

OK, assume for the moment that stealing and fraud are much more taxing on the conscience, and hence are easier to stay away from. Well then, if everyone agrees that smoking has no place is society, just ban the thing!! The government, for all it’s apparent care for the society, will not be able to ban cigarettes, because that would harm the economy. It will not even ban cigarettes in places where it might cause discomfort to others, because again, that will not be a popular decision with the large mass of smokers. Here in the US, most buildings are designated non-smoking zones, and anyone wanting to smoke must step outside, even if it is snowing. Imagine a rule like that being enforced in India!!

For the Indian government, it is always a case of flaunting apparent care for people, rather than doing something practical that would be a step in the right direction. If you want to reduce the influence of cigarettes,

1. Stop the sale of cigarettes in any and every stall on the street. Enforce the ‘No Smoking below 18’ rule for cigarettes. If it can work for alcohol, so can it for cigarettes. Of course, there will be a fraction of people with wrong access, but can you really dream about 100% efficiency?

2. Ban smoking in public places, and public buildings. That takes out a lot of places where people, including the youth, can smoke.

3. Like the US, make it a rule that a large percent of cigarette packaging must include anti-smoking warnings. The US rules make it mandatory that 33% of the package must include statutory warnings.

Some final pointers:

1. Taking care of the youth is the government’s responsibility, not the movie industry’s.

2. What the youth does is its choice, at least allow them that much intelligence.

3. If the youth really learn from its heroes, why can’t the government have people of exceptional character, who can influence them? When the government itself engages in cheap politics rather than spend time over fruitful decisions, how can they direct others to think about the country before themselves?

At least our youth is idolizing movie stars. God help us if our youth start learning from our politicians.

Beauty is only skin deep…

Yes, that is the message some recent advertisements, and by extension, the companies concerned, are trying to give out.

One such ad is that of a fairness cream. In it, a lady describes how after using the cream, she “got her yesterday’s husband back”, and received as much care as before. She was even treated to a private dinner at a suitable restaurant!!! In other words, before the arrival of the particular product, the husband was not caring for the lady as much as he used to!

Then, pray what does the lady plan to do when she is not in her late 30s, but in the late 60s?? Does she plan to plaster her face with the product in question, attempt to look as though she were 30, and hope that her husband care for her?

It’s surprising how ad ideas such as these come up, and it would be even more surprising if the target audience actually buys into them. Surely, most of us do realise that it is not really how we look that determines how people feel towards us??

Had the ad been for a product aimed at me, I’m not sure I’d have gone ahead and bought it…

Or am I being too idealistic??

Cricket, Money… and spectators

The India-West Indies cricket series started today, amid a lot of conjecture and hype around Sourav Ganguly’s return, and Sachin Tendulkar’s batting position, not to speak of India’s preparation for the World Cup. In short, this was a match (and the entire series) that everybody was waiting for.

It turned out that the match would be telecast, “Live and Exclusive”, on Neo Sports, which, hold your breath, only gives out a CAS specific feed!! Maybe someone forgot to tell Neo Sports that many parts of India have yet to implement CAS, and it might be a good idea to telecast for the rest of the cable-TV population of India, who pay out of their pockets to see these matches too. Even the newspapers ads from Neo Sports only boast of a minuscule small-print, yes, decidedly minuscule, when you consider the small print meted out by the rest of the field, declaring that the feed would be CAS specific. It’s almost as if they don’t want their prospective viewers to watch their game of cricket!

But perhaps the buck stops, as it always does, with the BCCI. Yes, money is important. Yes, sponsors and telecast rights form a major portion of revenues collected by the Board. But what use is a match telecast that only a small fraction of viewers can watch? Even while being alert to the amount of money that they earn, should they not try to ensure that the maximum possible number of people can actually watch these matches?

Some would argue that under this logic only free-to-air channels should get telecast rights. But the point made by non-free-to-air channels is fair enough: namely, that free-to-air channels simply do not generate enough revenue from advertisements alone to sustain their business of telecasting matches. Indeed, major tournaments that are watched by the entire nation, such as the World Cup, are telecast by the national broadcaster, Doordarshan, in addition to the paid channels, of course with a payment to the “Exclusive” Channel.

This situation, anyway, is different. Neo Sports is a pay channel; only, it has chosen to telecast only for the CAS section of the population. It is not a case of affordability here: even those who are ready to pay the money, are unable to subscribe, because the technology is simply not there!!

Perhaps Neo Sports should wake up to the fact that not everything about India is Neo after all.