Smoking disclaimer starts a fire!

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By Hindustan Times

NEW DELHI, Dec. 1 -- Imagine a 'smoking is injurious to health' warning on cinema screens every time the hero puffs for character impact. That's what the health ministry wants, and filmmakers don't.

On Tuesday, three Bollywood representatives -Mahesh Bhatt, Ritesh Sidhwani and Javed Akhtar were in Delhi to meet Information and Broadcasting (I&B) minister Ambika Soni to fight the move, but in vain. Bhatt, Sidhwani and Akhtar met Soni to challenge the directive, but the authorities are adamant.

"The government does not treat us as equals. They talk down to us, which tantamounts to violation of free speech. We are not a bunch of uncivilised kids who're not aware of their responsibility. And that's why we did agree on putting a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie, but putting it in every scene totally destroys our creative freedom," says Mahesh Bhatt, who has won the case against the directive in Delhi High Court and is hopeful that the win will impact the central government's stand too.

"The I&B ministry is seeking inputs from the law ministry to resolve the issue," he says. Sidhwani adds, "They'll now refer the matter to the health ministry and we hope to work out something jointly." The fraternity is backing the trio. "We are welcomed by other countries, but our own government keeps making our life more difficult," says filmmaker Kunal Kohli.

"I stand firm against the government on this issue to protect creative expression. The audience is intelligent; they don't need to be warned during every scene," says producer-director Goldie Behl. I&B officials refused to comment on the matter.