In India, recreational drugs are a huge no-no and are largely not shown in movies. Most of the earlier Hindi films had the clichéd “only phirangi hippies do drugs” tagline attached to them. This was more or less the case ignoring the fact that our favourite Holi drink, Bhaang actually constitutes marijuana.
Apart from a few art films here and there, there has been nothing that overtly shows the usage of drugs until recently when Hindi films sort of ‘grew up’. How many of you remember the joint-rolling scene in Rock On!!?
The joint which Naseeruddin Shah rolls in ZNMD can be passed off as him rolling a cigarette. The “supposed” joint Katrina Kaif smokes in Meri Brother Ki Dulhan can be called a bidi. There have been a few movies which have been pretty open about it though. Onir’s I Am, Bejoy Nambiar’s Shaitan, Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D and That Girl in Yellow Boots and Kiran Rao’s Dhobi Ghat would be examples of a more open approach.
Though the effects of the drugs are what serves as a warning - "don't do it, you'll lose your senses" - there is still an increase in the portrayal of weed in newer movies. We spoke to some Indian stoners, to see what they thought of it.
"It's honestly confusing. There's never a real way to figure out if they're showing joints or weed to make it more acceptable or to warn the audience. It's cool that they've taken up the fact that weed usage happens, considering its so common, but there's always some sort of stupid or bad edge to it. They make it look like if I smoke up I'm either going to have two brain cells or going to become manic, but all that happens is unlimited hunger. It really isn't all that bad, you guys - do better." Sahil, 28.
"Bollywood has never done weed justice. It's like they're just trying to make everyone feel scared about doing it, but smoking cigarettes (which is worse), is okay on the big screen. There are so many great medicinal benefits to weed, there's a reason that weed hasn't killed millions of people. They just perpetuate the stereotypes further and make it worse for the rest of us who have to deal with "ganjedi" and "nashedi", it's annoying." Ishani, 26.
"There's so much that directors can do with weed as a plot, but they let go of that opportunity and stress on all the random stereotypes and legends about weed. I think "Go Goa Gone" was brilliant, it was mad hilarious without making it seem like the drug usage was a huge issue. Stuff like that, like Dev D for example, it was tasteful. Bollywood can do better." Chinmay, 23.
"Can there be a worse medium that shows drugs? Nope. Youtube series I think, is the only legitimate form of drug representation and it's probably because there are fewer restrictions, but if you have the liberty to show the weed, make sure you use the opportunity to also represent it correctly." Fatima, 27.
"If you can take the time and show weed in your movies, take the time and learn about it too. I smoke up regularly, not once have I lost my mind entirely and done things like cheat on my partner, commit murder, or anything of the sort. What is the point of showing the drug in that light? To scare people off? It doesn't work. So might as well actually be accurate and save yourself the trouble." Sania, 19.
"I understand the whole legal issue behind this but does that mean we stop making films about everything illegal? That’s just unreal. I am really hoping for a pure stoner flick in India someday. The whole idea of mixing Bollywood masala with marijuana would definitely make an interesting watch." Prateek, 20.
The stoner community seems to be the least impressed with the representation of weed in mainstream media, an audience Bollywood can easily connect with. Stoners just hope that this will change as time goes by, and media will become more accepting of the drugs and its effects.