Director Anurag Kashyap Challenges India's Anti-Smoking Disclaimers

Anurag Kashyap - Bombay Talkies
Viacom18 Motion Pictures / Flying Unicorn

Woody Allen's refusal to follow the Indian health ministry's mandatory disclaimers to run with every movie led him to cancel the India release of "Blue Jasmine".

Film-maker Anurag Kashyap has filed a petition in the Bombay High Court challenging the Indian health ministry's mandatory anti-smoking disclaimers that screen with every film and TV show here.

According to local reports, Kashyap has filed his petition against India's Censor Board for their objection to his refusal to add the anti-smoking disclaimers in his upcoming film Ugly.

The film premiered at Cannes this year and is scheduled for release in January.

Ugly was to open in October but the film's release was delayed as its producers were still negotiating with India's censors over the anti-smoking disclaimers. 

At the time, a statement from the film's production banners DAR Motion Pictures and Phantom Films stated, "The Censor Board has directed us to insert a disclaimer in shots where a cigarette is visible, for the film to be certified. We are not carrying the disclaimer and are currently engaged in a dialog with the Board. If the issue is not sorted out to our satisfaction, we will consider other options."

"This clearly restraints the rights of filmmakers to freedom of speech and expression," Kashyap has reportedly stated in his court petition. "This warning destroys the aesthetic value of a film and distracts audiences from the movie thus ruining the experience of watching a film."

As per the health ministry's mandatory guidelines, a hard-hitting ad film plays before every movie screening in theaters warning against the ill-effects of smoking. In addition, any scene in a film or TV show depicting on-screen smoking has to run with a sub-title stating "smoking is injurious to health."

Woody Allen refused to follow these guidelines and canceled the rollout of Blue Jasmine in India. The Cate Blanchett-starrer was scheduled for release here in October via PVR Pictures, the distribution arm of India's largest theatrical chain PVR Cinemas.

"I don’t want my audience to get distracted and my film is not an advertisement hoarding for social service messages," Kashyap told select journalists in Mumbai in October after a private screening of Ugly.

"And I as a filmmaker will not take on the charitable stance of ridding society of all its ills. And the health ministry can't do both: take revenue from the tobacco industry and make it my responsibility to educate people about why they should avoid tobacco. I take my films seriously."

Ugly revolves around the kidnapping of a child and how that unravels a dramatic sequence of events concerning every character involved.