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‘Om Shanti Oshaana’ charts a new course in tobacco control onscreen

TechnoparkToday.com(Feb, 2014): At a time when onscreen smoking finds place in films without any rhyme or reason under the guise of creative freedom, a new Malayalam movie has charted out a proactive beginning for promoting public health.

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Recently released ‘Om Shanti Oshaana’, a lively romantic movie directed by Mr Jude Antony Joseph, written by Mr Midhun Manuel and produced by Mr Alvin Antony’s Ananya Films, subtly drives home tobacco harms and makes a public commitment against onscreen smoking.

The opening sequence of the film has the lead actor, Mr Nivin Pauly, attempting to light a cigarette. As mandated by Section 5 of India’s tobacco control law COTPA, 2003, a statutory warning is displayed on screen. The actor tries to brush the warning message aside, proceeds to light the cigarette again only to see the warning once more. He is not able to ignore the health warning and ends up crumbling and discarding the cigarette. Following an exchange between the actor and his co-artist, the film announces that there will be no instance of onscreen smoking in it.

Filmmaker Jude Antony said, “Onscreen smoking has a definite impact in developing smoking habits and it was my conscious decision to make a film without any smoking scenes. The response received for my film so far shows that films can succeed without depiction of smoking and drinking.” He feels that tobacco control messaging woven with the film’s narrative will have greater mileage and reach.

Welcoming the trend, well-known director behind many a successful family oriented film Mr Sathyan Anthikad said, “It cannot be denied that cinema influences society. Tobacco is a major cause of death and disease the world over and it is definitely positive if cinema can prevent this societal ill, and drive awareness against its use. Control messages as in the film ‘Om Shanti Oshaana’, wherein popular lead actors publicly denounce smoking, will strike a better chord than routine statutory warnings.”

Under COTPA Section 5, all new Indian or foreign films/television programmes displaying tobacco products or their use should have a strong editorial justification and should air anti-tobacco health spots, of minimum 30 seconds at the beginning and middle of the film/programme.

Anti-tobacco health warnings as a prominent static message at the bottom of the screen have to be displayed during the period when scenes involving tobacco or its products are shown. Films/television programmes displaying tobacco products should also have an audio-visual disclaimer on the ill effects of tobacco use, of minimum 20 seconds each, in the beginning and middle.

A nationally representative cross-sectional study covering 123,768 women and 74,068 men of urban and rural areas of all Indian states has concluded that exposure to visual mass media leads to higher likelihood tobacco consumption – both smoking and chewing – amongst both genders.

       

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