Four out of five films released on Eid-ul-Azha screen smoking scene

Published : 04 Jul 2023 10:00 PM

Despite ongoing efforts to make Bangladesh tobacco-free by 2040 in the interest of public health, it is true that the incidence of tobacco displayed in top-grossing films in Bangladesh is on the rise again.

Although the tobacco control law of Bangladesh prohibits the broadcast, display or description of the use of tobacco products in any film, drama or documents, the smoking scene is being displayed in movies, dramas, webseries and OTT platforms at a large scale.  

Five movies were released in the cinema halls of the country on the holy occasion of Eid-ul-Azha, which was celebrated on June 29 this year. The five films are ‘Lal Shari’, ‘Casino’, ‘Surongo’, ‘Priyotoma’ and ‘Prohelika’. Four out of five films contain smoking scenes. 

Apart from the Apu Biswas starrer ‘Lal Shari’, the remaining four films have been accused of displaying smoking scenes in violation of the law. Only the ‘Lal Shari’ movie doesn’t contain smoking scene, said anti-tobacco activists.  

Bangladesh Anti-Tobacco Alliance (BATA) is unhappy for the display of smoking scenes in the films released during this year’s Eid-ul-Azha. BATA has decided to write to the Bangladesh Film Censor Board, Information Ministry and the National Tobacco Control Cell (NTCC) seeking necessary action, said Syeda Anonna Rahman of BATA. 

Advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam, a public health lawyer and policy analyst who is secretary of Center for Law and Policy Affairs-CLPA; told the Bangladesh Post that display of smoking scenes in movies and dramas is a violation of the tobacco control law and a punishable offence. Action should be taken against the movies which screen smoking scenes, he said. 

It is alleged that tobacco companies tactfully use films and movies and popular actors and actresses in their advertising to encourage young people to smoke. So, the smoking scenes are usually screened with important characters in movies, dramas, webseries and OTT platforms.

Among the four movies which screened smoking scenes, Shakib Khan starrer movie ‘Priyotoma’ has occupied most of the cinema halls. 

Some other popular actors and actresses, including Afran Nisho, Toma Mirza, Mahfuz Ahmed, Shobnom Bubly and Nirab, acted in the remaining three movies-- ‘Surongo’, ‘Prohelika’ and ‘Casino’. 

Of the movies, ‘Priyotoma’ and ‘Surongo’ displayed smoking scenes at the first look poster and first look video as well as trailer and teaser and the main movie, while smoking scene was displayed at trailer and main movie of ‘Prohelika’ and ‘Casino’. However, Chayanika Chowdhury’s ‘Prohelika’ displayed warning as per the law, while ‘Casino’ of Saikat Nasir only displayed ‘no-smoking’ sign. 

Shakib Khan, a national award-winning actor in the Bangladeshi film industry; and Afran Nisho, a popular actor of the small screen; were seen smoking at the first look poster and first look video (teaser) of the duo’s movies--‘Priyotoma’ and ‘Surongo’. They are also seen smoking in the main movie. 

Some anti-tobacco activists blamed Shakib Khan and Afran Nisho for encouraging smoking in violation of the Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) (Amendment) Act, 2013.

Directed by Himel Ashraf, the film ‘Priyotoma’ pairs up Shakib Khan with Kolkata’s Idhika Paul. The first look of the film had been unveiled with a poster that shows Shakib Khan with long hair, a long beard and a stern expression on his face while smoking.

In the video, Shakib Khan was seen holding a burning cigarette on his lips as well as he is seen smoking. The same scenario is seen in the movie. 

Meanwhile, the teaser of Afran Nisho starrer movie ‘Surongo’ directed by Raihan Rafi had also been released with smoking scene. Toma Mirza starred opposite Afran Nisho in the movie. The first look video of the film had shown Arfan Nisho smoking just after entering the tunnel. The smoking scene is also seen in the main movie. 

According to the Section 5 (1) (a) of the Smoking and Tobacco Products Usage (Control) (Amendment) Act, 2013, “No person shall publish or cause to be published advertisement of tobacco products in any print or electronic media, books published in Bangladesh, leaflet, handbill, poster, printed paper, billboard or signboard or in any other way.”

The Section 5 (4) of the tobacco control law says, “If any person contravenes the provisions of this section he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or a fine which may extend to one lakh taka, or both and if he contravenes the provisions more than once, every time the amount of fine or punishment shall be doubled.”

Talking to Bangladesh Post on Tuesday, Syed Saiful Alam Shovan, a researcher on tobacco control and a director at Inter Press Network-IPN; said that different forms of tobacco advertising and promotional activities are still going on in Bangladesh using film, telefilm, drama and OTT platforms. The tobacco companies tactfully carry out promotional activities using drama, movie and OTT platforms, so that young people are encouraged to use tobacco. He demanded action against the movies released on Eid-ul-Azha and violated the tobacco control law.

Syed Saiful Alam Shovan further said that Shakib Khan, Afran Nisho, Mahfuz Ahmed and Shobnom Bubly are popular actors and actresses of the present time. They are followed by many young people. When those young people see their favourite actors in a smoking scene, many of them will be encouraged to smoke. 

After the release of the first look poster, Himel Ashraf, director of ‘Priyotoma’ movie; had said, “I don’t know if there is any warning in the poster or image. If there is such a law, we will definitely edit and give a health warning.” The movie, however, contains smoking scene even after it has been released finally on the occasion of the Eid-ul-Azha. 

 When asked about the violation of the tobacco control law, Raihan Rafi, director of the film ‘Surongo’; had said after releasing of first look post that smoking scene can be shown with health warning. However, his movie was released without health warning. 

Prof Dr Arup Ratan Choudhury, founder president of MANAS (Association for the Prevention of Drug Abuse); said that screening of smoking scenes with important characters in movie and drama encourage the young generation to smoke. Although it is banned by law, smoking scenes are being shown in various films, dramas, webseries made and aired recently. This has now become a cause for serious concern, he added.  

The MANAS chief called upon the Bangladesh Film Censor Board and others concerned to take immediate action in this regard.