A gang of friends listening to psychedelic music and smoking pot is how hippie culture was depicted in Bollywood in the 1970s. Cut to the 21st century, and drug consumption is being shown as a way of life in films like “Dev D”, “7 Khoon Maaf” and the upcoming “Dum Maaro Dum”.
“Drug consumption is shown in films only when it is crucial for a script,” director Rohan Sippy told IANS.
Sippy’s upcoming suspense thriller “Dum Maaro Dum”, a title inspired by the song of “Hare Rama Hare Krishna” that had hippie culture as its main plot, boldly delves into the narcotics trade.
But he clarifies “drugs aren’t the crux of the film” and hence the treatment to scenes of drugs consumption is quite subdued.
“We are not dwelling on the drugs consumption and trade in our film. We have not shown a huge amount of drugs consumption. The drugs trade is mostly the backdrop of ‘Dum Maaro Dum’,” he said.
In last few years, characters have been shown snorting or injecting drugs in a string of films like “Fashion”, “No Smoking”, “Kaminey”, “Traffic Signal”, “Pankh”, “Dev D” and “7 Khoon Maaf” on the celluloid.
Such scenes are often dim and dark in look, but they are not exaggerated the way it used to be in the past.
In “Fashion”, Madhur Bhandarkar depicted supermodels, played by Kangana Ranaut and Priyanka Chopra, snorting hashish to deal with depression, while in “Dev D”, actor Abhay Deol’s character sought refuge in addictive substances after facing dejection in love.
In Vishal Bharadwaj’s “7 Khoon Maaf”, John Abraham was shown as a drug addict with a wild lifestyle, and in “Kaminey”, Bharadwaj hinted at drug trade and abuse through Charlie, a role that saw Shahid Kapoor’s nasty avatar.
The frequency with which movies are now touching upon drug use mostly reflects changing society, says budding filmmaker Kartik Chaudhry.
And rightly so – in 2010, 67 Indian nationals and 30 foreign nationals were arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in drug- related cases, according to a report. And often police raids rave parties across the nation.
“In the 1970s, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll was a way of life in the west, and India got influenced too. Those trends are back. People have started following exactly what happened during the Woodstock era – the kind of fashion, polka-dots, craze for biking, drugs, etc. In the 1980s and 1990s, these things were a bit subdued and so cinema also was away from these things,” said Chaudhry.
“Also, since there is a whole new breed of filmmakers in the industry, they are aware of the drugs consumption culture, and it is a matter of fact for them. Hence the ease in depiction of drugs intake,” he added.
Tigmanshu Dhulia, whose 2004 thriller “Charas: A Joint Operation” is about drug cartels, feels the movie would have worked much better had it been released in today’s time.
“Today’s audience has matured because they are being exposed to foreign cinema and culture through DVDs and the internet. Sex, like drugs, was an unacceptable part of society. But with the changing times where new subjects are being explored and accepted, these are elements which are being dealt with in bold stories,” Dhulia told IANS.
However, he strongly feels the subject should be handled with utmost care.
“If we show drugs without glorifying it, then I don’t think there should be an issue. I personally feel that drug culture is a menace to society and it should be handled in films very delicately like in ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’.”
The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is easy on the subject too.
“As long as filmmakers are ready to release their projects with an A-certificate, the censor board has no issues. It’s not like we have to put a statutory warning of ‘Say no to drugs’! The audience is mature enough,” said Sippy.
But preaching an anti-drugs message through movies is not Sippy’s forte.
“Personally I do not believe there is any significant impact on the social behaviour of youth through films, and neither have we have made ‘Dum Maaro Dum’ with the intent of motivating youngsters to give up on drugs,” he said.