The Essential Gandhi

Got on a roll reading The Essential Gandhi this week while aboard a five hour flight from California. The book, which is a compilation of Gandhiji's writings edited by Louis Fischer, is easily among the very best I have ever been privileged to read. Gandhiji's teachings are in parallel with those of all religions. His philosophy and his actions to support it are equally intriguing, to say the least. So today I finally finished it and had to find something in it of relevance to the Bollywood of today. Before I do that, let me say that I am prouder of being Indian after having read this book.

Now, to the relevance to Bollywood today. I did not know (shame on the South Asian institutions I attended for not having added any book by Gandhiji to the curricula) that Gandhiji's opinion of alcohol consumption was unfavorable, to say the least. To quote Gandhi:

"I shall work for an India...in which there shall be no high class and low class of people, an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony. There can be no room in such an India for the curse of untouchability or the curse of intoxicating drinks and drugs."

A curse and intoxicating drinks used in the same sentence. So that got me thinking, right. About a year ago, Bollywood banned all displays of cigarette smoking in its movies. Don (2006) was criticized for it showed Shah Rukh Khan smoking after the ban was established.

So if smoking in movies sets a bad example for members of the Indian society who watch the films, what about alcohol? Is alcohol consumption not worse than cigarette smoking? For the body, the mind, the society, everyone and everything?

Okay, so before you start thinking that I am against displays of alcohol consumption in Indian movies, let me just say that that is not my point. I agree that cinema mirrors real life (and the inverse holds true too). What I am only trying to figure out is why showing cigarettes is banned and showing alcohol consumption is not. Surely, alcohol has got to be equally bad if not worse an addiction/habit?

Maybe it is just the lobby of spirit companies at work. Hmmm...cigarette smoking is disallowed in Bollywood and alcohol consumption in strip clubs is perfectly acceptable in the *same* movies. Go figure...

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