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Tamil actor Ajith’s new film poster released recently showed him lying while holding a child in one hand and a gun in another. In a shot in a recent film Kamal Haasan appeared, playing guitar quite engrossed, even as he held a gun in his grip. In a poster of a film in the making, Rajini flaunts an aruval (machete) dripping with blood. These are just samples of the gory leitmotif running through popular actors’ current films. But it’s not only southern films.  Pan-India is nowadays the buzzword in tinsel town, and ‘neo-desi’ films shot in one language are dubbed in a couple of other languages to market their blood-curdling violence in films countrywide.

So much so that most viewers in India seem inured to the surfeit of violence served up on every screen. But the impact is equally horrific.

In Chandigarh, a miscreant kidnapped a five-year-old girl and demanded a ransom of Rs.20 lakhs. The kidnapper, just a teen, confessed on interrogation that the criminally intoxicating ideas in films had inspired him.  In the Jahangirpuri area in Delhi, three small boys stabbed a man with a knife and shot a video of the murder. They too, when caught, attributed their crime to gangster films that titillated them with dreams of ‘Don’.

Now cut to Tamil Nadu. A 40-year-old woman was found raped and murdered at Alamarathukaadu in Salem and the police finally zeroed in on two men aged 23 and 24. The accused admitted to having been inspired by films and were convinced they would go scot free and not be caught.

Most viewers in India seem inured to the surfeit of violence served up on every screen. But the impact is equally horrific.

A retired police official once told me, “When action films are released, a posse of police personnel are posted at the entrance of the cinemas as a precaution.  For, when the fans, particularly the youth come out lost in the spell their beloved hero’s high-octane enthralling stunt sequences, oozing masculinity, even an inadvertent touch can snowball into a violent fight.”

Psychologist Ananthan said, “Cinema is a more powerful medium than any, catching hold of your five senses completely. To keep the audience on the edge of seats, close-up shots of blood-soaked violence accompanied by thundering BGM (background music) flash like a lightening on the screen. The action phantasmagoria will surely affect the adults, let alone the youth.”

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Back in the 1970s and 1980s, 99.5 (!) per cent of films were maudlin melodramas of the lead pair loving and pining for each in the midst of romantic BGM.  Love’s several forms – platonic, divine, idealistic, creative, non-verbal and non-physical – were explored and elegantly, musically and tearfully delineated so suicide for the sake of love was sort of glorified. Such films were blamed as triggers for star-crossed lovers’ suicides that flashed across newspapers back in the day.

Besides, scenes of teachers and girl students being teased and trolled and adolescent boys handing love letter to woman teachers were the in-thing then.

According to the shocking data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau, “the incidence of boys committing crimes is increasing year by year. The situation is quite alarming in Tamil Nadu. In 2016 out of 1,603 murders reported, 48 were found to have involvement of boys. Out of 1,661 murders recorded in 2020, 104 were committed by boys.”

We have long been living in a society where even adults, let alone the impressionable youth and children, celebrate the heroes, thinking celluloid supermen are as honest and good as on the screen

Against this background, the High Court was moved for a direction to make it mandatory to run the following warning across the armed fight scenes in films: “The weapons used in this scene are not real, but made of papers and the blood is also not real, but made of red powder.” But the court refused to accept the plea.

We have long been living in a society where even adults, let alone the impressionable youth and children, celebrate the heroes, thinking celluloid supermen are as honest and good as on the screen. Asked about this dismal trend, pat comes the reply from the film-makers: “We just film what’s happening in the society.” They are silent when asked why they blow out of proportion a few abnormalities in society while several good things take place in parallel.

It is worthwhile in this context to talk about the Censor Board, which is meant to certify and define the audience for films.

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The Rajini-starrer ‘Kabali’ was banned in Singapore, Malaysia and a few Arab countries for its surfeit of gory murder scenes. But it was granted U certificate in India to enable all including children to watch. The film hit the screens in the foreign countries only after it was sanitized of violence.

Similarly, ‘Beast’ and ‘Valimai’ in which Vijay and Ajith had starred respectively were given U/A certificate so the children too could watch the films in the company of adults.

It remains a mystery what sort of policy the Censor Board has in this regard. (It is of course ironic that the same Censor Board frowns on and has itchy fingers to snip and sanitize films that do not have the violence and sex of commercial potboilers but present an honest and unbiased criticism of the government.)

The society is caught between larger-than-life, violent and macho film heroes, on the one hand, who do not care a hoot about the social values and by their fans, on the other, who invest the violent celluloid idols with divinity to the point of being led astray in real life.

Let us cut to the chase:  The government, judiciary and social activists must all join hands in a concerted initiative to ring down the  curtains on this rotten film syndrome.  Otherwise, we condemn our children to a stark and terrifyingly dark future in real life.

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