The release of a poster for Thalapathy Vijay’s upcoming film Sarkar, in which he is seen poised in his signature style, ready to light a cigarette, has resurrected the controversy surrounding the portrayal of cigarette smoking on screen.
The film's first-look as released by Sun Pictures and director AR Murugadoss has even prompted former Union Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss to take a dig at the lead actor. He has said, “Shame on Actor Vijay for promoting Smoking in this first look of his next movie. #ActResponsibly #DoNotPromoteSmoking," adding, "You'll look more stylish without that cigarette. #SmokingKills #SmokingCausesCancer".
Ramadoss has also shared a picture of an old print interview in which Vijay has said that his films will never have any smoking scenes featuring him.
The former minister has always raised his voice against smoking, even telling popular actors off for glorifying the act. “I don't want them to glorify cigarette smoking and drinking because they have a huge following of fans who ape their idols.”
Superstar Rajinikanth and Vijay have both said in the past that they will no longer smoke on screen, after facing flak for smoking in Baba and Thuppakki respectively. Rajini, who was a smoker for over three decades, dropped the habit after falling gravely ill a few years ago. Since then, he has been urging his fans to follow suit and kick the butt.
National Award-winner Dhanush had also courted controversy by appearing in smoking scenes in Maryan, Velai Illa Pattadhari, and Maari. While responding to a query about whether he felt a responsibility to stay away from on-screen smoking, considering his fan following, the actor said, “It is a call taken by the director of the film. The script and my character demanded it. In real life, I don’t smoke and I request my fans to take that as their inspiration.”
Actor Sivakarthikeyan also once said, “So far, my scripts have never demanded a smoking scene, and I have avoided them. In the future too, I will try not to smoke on-screen since kids and women come to watch my films.”
One may recall that a few years ago, the Indian Medical Association demanded a blanket ban on smoking scenes in films, saying that the warnings and disclaimers cautioning viewers about the ill-effects of smoking had failed to deter people from emulating characters from films.