Essay on Movie Censorship

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Everyone watches them. Everyone enjoys them. From psychological thrillers to rom-coms, film is a part of everyday life and the industry is developing and growing every single day. This results in the massive influence that film has on today’s society. Society is reflected in movies and turn, movies influence society by changes in representations, challenging the audience’s morals and transforming viewers’ opinions. This study analyzes the depiction of drug usage, cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption in movies in terms of character stereotyping and typecasting. Because films are focused on making money they are being used as marketing tools by alcohol and cigarette conglomerates. The study also explores youth perception of such content and tries to determine the behavioral implications or influence of such content on young children. The goal of this research is to analyze the social cognitive influence of movies on the youth and effects of censorship in film today. It analyses the issue solely from the perspective of a youth audience to better understand how the youth today perceive movies and to see if depiction of cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug usage has a positive and negative effect on the youth audience. Not only is film influential but it is a source of entertainment and escapism. Film combines music, stories and pictures all in one and it’s a way to forget the real world for 120 minutes or so but at the same time can give audiences a reality check. Movies can create awareness about the importance of education, art, sports and politics and can also warn us about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and other criminal activities. It also brings us to understand more about other cultures, the atrocity of living homeless, and the countries that are in constant battle with war and terrorism. All these movie genres help awaken our sense of responsibly and empathy towards such situations. This socially enlightening movie help us understand the world positively influences our thought process and helps us try to do our bit in order to be of some help to humanity for example helping/donating to charities. In addition, films make our imaginations run wild. After finishing a movie, we think about the characters and the story and develop it further; maybe even thinking about what the characters would be doing after the movie finished. This develops our creativity and leads to writers producing Fanfiction and artists producing Fan art and sharing it with social media sites. A part of the analysis of the study is to also better understanding the impacts of film on society.

1. Introduction

Movies are the lifeblood of the entertainment industry today. Movies today become a popular medium for mass communication. They have transcended from bring just superfluous tools in entertainment to something more concrete in the last three to four decades. Movies have a greater impact on audiences, who relate emotionally to the characters and their actions and are affected by the character portrayals of the actor in these movies. Movies may have an influence in small ways in our daily lives. They influence our fashion, the food we eat, ant the way we talk. Movies over time have also been approaching more realistic themes and depict reality with a stark realism that shows characters doing drugs and smoking cigarettes in very real scenarios. The influences of these types of content often occur as unconscious affectations in our personalities as a result of the particular genre or characters we watch. The study explains that the alcohol consumption increases health problems and risks; most of the young drinkers were injured due to accident as well as they face health problems related to alcohol. Therefore, there are likely chances to reduce the metal ability, reducing self-confident due alcoholism and increasing trend among youth. Cinema has been a major source of entertainment for the people of every age group around the world. Different genres of movies are produced and these influence the public in different ways. Since movies are explored by all, they influence society immensely. This impact can be both negative and positive.

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1.1. Review of literature

Many studies have analyzed the use of stereotypes in flims. The study focused on the theory of stereotyping and type casting of the characters who are alcoholics and drug users in movies and concluded that movies as a medium for mass communication have a powerful influence on how the public regards the use of drugs and alcohol. Thus, movies with a few exceptions rarely show the negative impact of these vices, which would help in discouraging audiences from being influenced by them. Many research articles in India have found a new growing trend in Indian movies, the feminine drunk who chronicles movies in the last decade showing this trend of female actors portraying a drunken character in scenes or scenes in movies. My aim is mainly focused on the impacts of Tamil films on society in issue of liquor.

1.2. Methodology

    • Conceptual reading
    • Self-Analysis of an individual
    • Briefly understanding the concept of the research topic
    • Extensively reading of the cases involved in the findings
    • Concluding the topic by giving a personal touch of thought.

1.3. Significance of the study

The overall objective of the study is to identify reasons for the increasing trend of alcohol consumption in Tamil Nadu and its multitude of impacts on society. The second object of the study is to find out social behavioral problems caused by alcohol based on Tamil films.

1.4. Censorship

‘Censorship’ is a term generally used to connote the process of restricting the access of ideas and information in apprehension that it may disturb the public peace. In India, Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India provides for the freedom of speech and expression. The constitution is silent as to the medium of communication of ideas. Nonetheless, this freedom includes the freedom to exhibit motion films. However, this right is not an absolute one. The state can impose restrictions on the content if it is against the interests of public policy, foreign relations, sovereignty and integrity of the state, public order, decency and morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation, or incitement of an offense provided that such restriction is reasonable.

1.5. The Cinematograph Act, 1952

The film industry in India is a mammoth with more than 1000 movies produced per year. The union legislature derives its power to make laws on censorship of cinema from the Entry 60 under Schedule VII of the Constitution of India. The state is also empowered to make laws on this matter subject to the provisions made by the central legislation. The grounds for restricting the films is provided under Section 5(B)1 which are in accordance to reasonable restrictions under Article 19. The Central government is vested with the power of to call for the record of any proceeding except the proceeding pending before the Appellate Tribunal. If a film is exhibited without the certificate of the Board, the exhibitor is liable for punishment.

1.6. Arguments for and against censorship of films

The government has on many occasions banned movies under the garb of reasonable restrictions. Many controversies have also arisen regarding the content of various movies such as Vishwaroopam etc. Many movies like Kissa Kursi Ka got banned during emergency because it was allegedly based on Indira Gandhi’s life. Shah Commission, instituted to inquire into the excesses committed during emergency found Sanjay Gandhi responsible for burning the prints of the movie. Many movies were banned because they were based on issues which could stir up communal enmity like Garam Hawa, Black Friday etc. People who oppose such bans argue that movies should not be banned and people should be given the freedom to form their opinions after watching the movies. This is primarily because the grounds mentioned in Section 5 of Cinematography Act, 1952 are very subjective and broad. Since the censor board has no jurisdiction over the contents posted on the internet, the filmmakers who do not wish to carry out the cuts directed by it release the censored parts on the internet the recent example being the release of censored parts of the movie Angry Indian Goddesses in the form of a video by the director. People who support censorship argue that it protects the vulnerable sections of society like children whose can easily get influenced by the contents and things which are truly offensive and inhumane should not reach the audience.

1.7. Role of judiciary

A debate has been going on about the validity of censorship as a means to ensure reasonable restriction on the right to freedom of speech and expression. The Supreme Court in K A Abbas v Union of India for the first time upheld that the films are within the ambit of Article 19(2) and observed that since motion pictures have a deeper impact on the audience; they should be treated differently from the out forms of art.

In Raj Kapoor v Laxman the Supreme Court held that the initiation of criminal processes for obscenity etc. under IPC it is not sustainable if the film has been passed by the censor board. However, the court also maintained that the bar is not absolute, and the filmmaker has to participate in the legal proceedings and claim the safeguard.

The decision of the Court in S. Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan Ram is very important. In the instant case, the Tamil movie ‘Ore Oru Gramathile’ was banned by the government despite it having received a U certificate from the censor board. The movie talked about the reservation and how it should be given based on economic status rather than caste. The Supreme Court struck down the ban and observed, “Movie is the legitimate and the most important medium in which issues of general concern can be treated. The producer may project his own message which the others may not approve of it. But he has a right to ‘think out’ and put the counter appeals to reason. It is a part of a democratic give-and-take to which no one could complain. The State cannot prevent open discussion and open expression, however, hateful to its policies.”

In Anand Patwardhan v.Cent. Bd. of Film Certification, the petitioner, was asked by the censor board to carry out two cuts and one addition in order to receive a U certificate for his movie “War and Peace.” The petition was filed against this direction of Censor Board. The Court unequivocally observed that the cuts were directed only to harass the filmmaker.

In Life Insurance Corporation of India v. Prof. Manubhai D. Shah the Court held that merely because a film/show is critical of the government, it cannot be banned. In the Da Vinci controversy, the Supreme Court rejected the writ petition filed by the All India Christians Welfare Association claiming it to be against Article 25 of the constitution of India and that it hurt the sentiments of the Christian community. The court observed that since many predominantly Christian countries have no objection to the content of the movie, and since the movie has been approved by the censor board and central government, it is moot to ban it. Thus, the court has interpreted the provisions of Article 19 and the Cinematograph Act, 1952 to bring out the ambit of censorship and scope of freedom of speech and expression.

2. Films and the roles they play

There is no gain in saying that a movie does wield a tremendous influence in the society. Children and the grown-ups are equally exposed to the dangers of the vulgarity and degrading value of cheap popular cinema, in the guise of entertainment.

Cinema has perhaps the greatest potential to be the most effective mass media instrument. Besides proving cheap entertainment for masses, it can easily become a means of mass instruction and mass education.

Cinema has certainly some clear advantages over other media. It combines primarily, both audio and video and is thus very appealing to the eyes and the ears. With the development of color cinematography, and stereophonic sound, it is certainly one up on other media. The moral values conveyed through the medium of cinema have a lasting effect on the audience. The audience also has a moral, and emotional involvement in the course of events and the roles of various characters, their language and style of speaking does leave an impression on the spectators.

The realization of this fact is, perhaps the reason for setting up a censor board which scrutinizes all the scenes that are not likely to corrupt the wells of social morality. But this precaution could not be of any significance today when we are exposed to the internet where you can treat your eyes to all possible vulgarity and mean, obscene and even pornographic films indiscriminately to the young and the old alike.

2.1. Films related to real life

The extent of influences Tamil films and actors have over the people of Tamil Nadu is clearly evident from the political scenario in the state. For the last 45 years, only people from the film industry have become Chief Ministers in this state. This is because the screen image of the actor and his ‘larger than life’ real image merge and dissolve into one in the minds of the average film goer. While some people still don’t accept that MGR is dead, N.T. Ramarao (another actor turned Chief Minister in Andhra Pradesh), is strongly believed to be the reincarnation of the god Rama and Krishna because of his successful depiction of these characters on screen.

2.2. Impact of alcoholism

Day by day alcohol is becoming increasingly available and is used widely. Addiction has become really a curse upon human beings. More males are affected by alcoholism than female. Recent surveys show that drinking is increasing among youth and women. Consumption of alcohol is apparently on the rise over the world. The total alcohol consumption and prevalence of alcohol-related problems are high in all societies, especially in societies of developing nations.

2.2.1. Positive impact:-

    • Progressive thoughts like gender equality, organ donation spread easily through movies. For example, ‘Dangal’ in Hindi and ‘Kanna’ in Tamil movie inspired many to encourage their daughters in sports.
    • Till recently, most of the Indians preferred engineering or medicine as their career choice. This belief is changing these days, and movies too have a role in this change. Careers of lead characters in movies impact young people greatly. For example, the ‘Ghaji’ movie attracted many towards a career in the Navy.
    • Though most Indian movies concentrate on love between lead roles, these days many movies are coming with wonderful storylines and are influencing youth to focus on life goals rather than just concentrating on the love phase in Tamil film ‘Karrupan’
    • Several Indian movies on current issues are thought-provoking and are highlighting the mistakes people are making. For example, ‘M Kumaran Son of Mahalakshmi’ movie highlights the plight of parents who are left behind by abroad-settled children.
    • Movies are a great source of entertainment. People can relieve stress and pressure at work or studies by watching movies.
    • Through movies, cultures are depicted wonderfully. Hence, movies increases cultural sensitivity.

2.2.2. Negative impact:-

    • Indian movies show eve-teasing and stalking as normal and sometimes as heroic. This is impacting youth negatively and is turning them into harassers.
    • Most filmmakers ignore their responsibility towards society and add commercial elements to make their movies successful. This kind of filmmaker makes movies that do not offer any good to society but spread negative elements like violence, stalking etc.
    • These days Indian movies objectify women by adding item songs or special songs. Irony is that on the one hand they preach gender sensitivity, on the other hand, they make songs that are demeaning to women.
    • In most of the Indian movies, the male lead drinks alcohol and shows it as heroic. In some movies, male lead smokes too. This influences teenagers, who have strong emotions.
    • Movies always depict luxury lifestyle and rarely show middle class lives. This leads to an increase in consumeristic society, and the worst impact will be on youth.
    • Some filmmakers impose their personal opinions on society through movies. This kind of movies may depict certain communities or religions in a negative light.
    • Movies encourage people to take revenge. Rarely do movies show lead characters fighting legally. In many films, lead characters kill antagonists by themselves. This is a threat to our society and legal administration.

3. How Tamil films on society is facing an issue mainly focused on alcohol?

3.1.Alcohol in India

In general, the common opinion in India about taking alcohol is that it is evil to do so. There is no acceptance of drinking alcohol in a social manner or as stimulant – so you cannot find openness towards the consumption of alcohol in any form. In addition to that, most of all the alcohol regulation policies formed by each state are unsuccessful and since it is a taboo topic there is not enough information provided. Because alcohol selling in many states is controlled by the government, there are many adulteration of alcohol and the black market. Furthermore alcohol consumption is also a big problem in rural areas.

3.2 Alcohol policy in Tamilnadu

Alcohol in Tamil Nadu is sold by “TASMAC” (Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation), a company holds by the government of Tamil Nadu. The place of TASMAC bars has to follow specific guidelines and norms for example prescribed distance to schools, places of workshops, etc. Within the last year, many people petitioned for the shifting or closing of those shops. Anyhow in many places TASMAC outlets still allow the alcoholics to have easy access to all kinds of liquids.

3.3.Tamil flims on society is facing an issue mainly focused on alcohol

We watched movies in theatres once in a blue moon, it’s the only source we had before. But, now we have become so comfortable with downloading movies on mobile itself. We have websites, social media, and statuses to swallow the specific scenes we see. We are in the era of injecting everything into everyone easily. Compared to other countries, Indian cinemas have a culture of taking movies seriously and sensitively in their daily life. We take inspiration from the characters’ behavior and mannerisms; we imitate them. In Hollywood, only superhero movies are taken seriously and there will be an imitation and costume trend among those people. But in Indian cinema, we have a huge fan base for every hero and heroine. The creators should present their work with huge responsibility. But some creators are not helping.

Before and during the 2000s, the villains only took alcohol in the movies. Alcohol consumption is used as a negative element to push out the bad impression of villains among the audience. There were some movies, where if the hero took alcohol, it would affect his life and his family. Even comedies were like if the character consumes alcohol, it would affect him. For example; In Yei's (2004) movie, Vadivel took alcohol and stood on a bus without holding the handle. When the driver takes a break, he jumps from the bus and gets hurt (Laughing apart). They took Alcohol drinking as a serious element to project the after-effects of its consumption. Now think about Santhanam's comedy in Raja Rani, who forces his dearest friend to drink alcohol and teaches him some bad words to scold his girlfriend. We the people who already messing with the concept of comparing the characters shown in movies with our real life. This is related to films on society based on alcoholism.

Another huge way that movies affect society is through advertisements of different products. Often, companies will pay productions to include their products in movies because when so many people watch the movie, surely some of them will want to buy the can of Coca-Cola that their favorite character was drinking throughout the movie.

Another way in which movies affect our modern world is that they help the economy grow and prosper. Take, for example, action figures. For every big blockbuster, action figures are created and distributed. Fans buy them for aesthetic and collectible value. Action figures don’t have any real application or impact on people’s lives, they are just for fun. It doesn’t cost a lot for an action figure to be made, they are mostly all made by either plastic, rubber, or both. But since they have such a high collectible value, fans buy them at ridiculously high prices. That way, people bring money into the country, into companies, and private manufacturers (“Influence of Film on Modern Society”). And it’s not only action figures, it’s any form of ‘accessory’ connected to a movie. For example, the money the theatre makes from selling snacks before every screening is 85% of that theatre’s total profit. Some of that money goes to the country in the form of taxes. Another example of this is simply the tickets sold for projections. Although most of the money goes directly to the studio that has produced the movie, some of it goes to the country. It’s not only a direct influence on the country’s economy that films have; the industry itself is of huge significance.

4. Conclusion

Whatever a movie may be about, one should not forget that a movie is a portrayal of a writer’s imagination unless it’s a biopic. One should not madly follow them. Students must realize that their lives and situations don’t need to have a resemblance with the movie. They should understand and know the difference between real life and real life and try to inculcate only the positive aspects of cinema. The Tamil film industry has some of the best technical talents recognized worldwide. Their expertise with the visual medium can go a long way in promoting awareness about several mental health issues, in society. The psychiatric fraternity should exploit the strengths of these filmmakers and assist in bringing out more good films that are also popular. This will bring a change in public attitudes and make way for an inclusive society.

5. Bibliography

    1. Dr.Sukanta K. Nanda ‘Media Law’.
    2. Oxford Handbook on Indian Constitutional Law
    3. Aveseh Asough, Social Media and Ethics – The impact of film on society, December 2016.

6. Cases referred

    • K A Abbas v Union of India
    • Raj Kapoor v Laxman
    • S. Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan Ram
    • Anand Patwardhan v.Cent. Bd. of Film Certification
    • Life Insurance Corporation of India v. Prof. Manubhai D. Shah
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