Dying in Vain: Sabka Badla Lega Tera Faijal…

 

faisal-khan

In the movie Gangs of Wasseypur directed by Anurag Kashyap, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, plays a character called Faizal (but pronounced Faijal). In the movie, Faizal is shown to be doped all the time, even though he is a part of a mafia family.

The story of the movie is set around the coal mafia in Dhanbad in Jharkhand.

The rival mafia family kills Faizal’s father and elder brother. Faizal promises to avenge their death and tells his mother: “sabka badla lega re tera faijal (your Faijal will avenge everyone’s death).” Though no one takes Faizal seriously when he says this, he eventually does avenge the deaths of his father and brother, and is killed in the process.

In avenging his father’s and brother’s death, Faizal essentially shows the ‘Our Boys Didn’t Die in Vain’ syndrome. This syndrome is seen in several areas of life including wars.

Yuval Noah Harari explains this in the context of Italy in Homo Deus—A Brief History of Tomorrow. In 1915, Italy entered the First World War with the aim of liberating two territories held ‘unjustly’ by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Italian politicians gave fiery speeches motivating thousands of Italians to join the Army and fight. Caught up in the emotion of the moment, Italians thought it would be a walkover.

As Harari writes: “It was anything but. The Austro-Hungarian empire held a strong defensive line…The Italians hurled themselves against the line in eleven gory battles…In the first battle they lost 15,000 men. In the second battle they lost 40,000 men. In the third battle they lost 60,000…By the end of the war, almost 700,000 Italian soldiers were killed, and more than a million were wounded.”

In fact, after losing the first of the eleven battles, the Italian politicians had a choice of admitting their mistake and signing a peace treaty. If they had signed the peace treaty it would have meant admitting that those who had died in the battle, had died in vain. As Harari writes: “How could go the politicians go to the parents, wives and children of 15,000 dead Italian soldiers, and tell them: ‘Sorry, there has been a mistake…But your Giovanni died in vain, and so did your Marco.’”

The other option was to say that Giovanni, Marco and everyone else who had died were heroes, who did not die fighting in vain and continue fighting. Over and above the politicians telling the parents that their children had died in vain, it is even more difficult for parents to admit that their sons had died in vain fighting on the battlefront. The same stands true for soldiers who were crippled but did not die. So the Italians continued fighting and ultimately ended up with Benito Mussolini and his fascists at the top. This ultimately led to the Second World War.

Wars and mafia are not the only places where Our Boys Didn’t Die in Vain’ syndrome,’ is seen. It is seen in various other areas of life as well. As Harari writes: “Not only governments fall into this trap.” The economists call it the sunk-cost effect or to put it simply, the escalation of commitment. It is often seen in the form of companies holding on to floundering projects.

As Daniel Kahneman writes in Thinking, Fast and Slow: “The escalation of commitment to failing endeavours is a mistake from the perspective of the firm but not necessarily from the perspective of the executive who “owns” a floundering project. Cancelling the project will leave a permanent stain on the executive’s record, and his personal interests are perhaps best served by gambling further with the organisation’s resources in the hope of recouping the original investment—or at least in an attempt to postpone the day of reckoning.”

Other than CEOs hanging on to projects, it also leads to people hanging “too long in poor jobs” as well as “unhappy marriages”. As Harari explains it, people “would much prefer to go on suffering in the future, just so it won’t have to admit that our past suffering was devoid of all meaning.”

The column originally appeared in the Bangalore Mirror on October 5, 2016

Why warnings against smoking could be injurious to health


Vivek Kaul

First it was Naseeruddin Shah. Then came Rahul Bose. He was followed by Irrfan. And now the baton for the thinking woman’s sex symbol seems to have been passed onto Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Siddiqui in his tour de force performance as Faizal Khan (pronounced Faijal) in Gangs of Wasseypur II has firmly made himself an actor to watch out for.
His character is shown to be constantly smoking cigarettes or ganja throughout the movie. In a doped state he promises his mother “baap ka, dada ka, sabka badla lega tera Faijal”. He even tries to impress his girl friend ala Rajinikanth by trying to flip a cigarette first unsuccessfully and then successfully, into his mouth. Given this, the movie does begin with the usual disclaimer “Cigarette smoking is injurious to health. It causes cancer.” The disclaimer appears even after the movie starts again after the interval.
The information and broadcasting ministry now has planned to tighten the screws further on movies which show characters smoking. In a circular dated August 2, 2012, the ministry has made it mandatory for films that have smoking scenes to shoot a 20 second disclaimer. This disclaimer is to be shot with the actor who is shown to be smoking in the movie. It has to be repeated when the movie re-starts after the interval, like the current disclaimer is. Over and above that a message saying “cigarette smoking is injurious to health” has to be flashed during the entire duration of a smoking scene. (You can read the complete report here).
The move is in line with the government policy to discourage smoking. In line with this policy, every packet of cigarette now carries gruesome pictures showing the negative effects of smoking. These graphic images show various ways in which people are affected by smoking. These could be lung tumours, gangrenous feet and toes, throat cancers and so on.
On the face of it these moves seem to make sense given that one third of adult males around the world smoke. Nicotine addiction is one of the biggest killers of human beings around the world.
But the question that crops up here is that do these warnings really work?
First and foremost the disclaimers in place or those that are being put in place work with the assumption that people who smoke “cigarettes” do not understand the risk of smoking. Is that true?
In his bestselling book The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell talks about a study carried out by Harvard University which asked smokers to guess how many years of their life smoking would take, if they started smoking at the age of 21. The average response of the smokers was nine years, higher than the actual six or seven years that it would cost them. So the notion that smokers smoke because they do not understand the risks of smoking is at best juvenile.
But what about a country like India where half the population is functionally illiterate? Do those who smoke cigarettes understand the risk of smoking them?
If we look at the definition of poverty in this country, those spending less than or equal to Rs 28.65 per day in cities or Rs 22.42 in rural areas, are deemed to be poor. Now these are not the people who would be smoking cigarettes which can cost anywhere from Rs 2-5 per stick. They simply cannot afford it. They smoke bidis.
So chances are the average Indian who smokes cigarettes earns reasonably well and is educated enough to understand the risks of smoking. But he still smokes.
If the government really wants to discourage smoking and reduce the ill effects of tobacco consumption in this country, they should be concentrating on bidis, gutkas and pan masalas rather than cigarettes.
That’s one part of the argument. People who smoke understand its risk and continue to smoke. The other part that needs to be discussed is that do pictorial warnings and disclaimers of various kinds work? Do they discourage people from smoking?
A recent research seems to suggest the opposite i.e. the warnings seem to encourage people to smoke more. Brand Guru Martin Lindstrom carried out a functional magnetic resonance imaging tests on the brains of smokers a few years back. He showed them what he felt was one of the most effective anti-smoking ads he had ever seen.
“A group of people are sitting around and chatting and smoking. They’re having a jolly good time, except for one problem: instead of smoke, thick, greenish-yellow globules of fat are pouring out of the tips of their cigarettes, congealing, coalescing and splattering onto their ashtrays. The more the smokers talk and gesture, the more those caterpillar-sized wads of fats end up on the table, the floor, their shirtsleeves, all over the place. The point being, of course, that smoking spreads these same globules of fat throughout your bloodstream, clogging up your arteries and wreaking havoc with your health,” writes Lindstrom in his book Buyology – How Everything We Believe About Why We Buy is Wrong.
When this advertisement was shown to smokers who took part in this experiment they weren’t put off by the gruesome images of fat. As Lindstrom writes “They weren’t put off by the gruesome images of artery-clogging fart; they barely even noticed them.”
But what the message did instead was that it activated the “craving spot” in the brain. “Cigarette warnings…stimulated an area of the smokers’ brains called the nucleus accumbens, otherwise known as “the craving spot.”. The region is a chain-link of specialized neurons that lights up when the body desires something – whether it’s alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sex, or gambling. When stimulated, the nucleus accumbens requires higher and higher doses to get its fix,” points out Lindstrom. So the gruesome advertisement made people want to smoke more instead of less. This was an unintended consequence.
“Camel smokers experienced more cravings when they saw illustrations of Camels and Camel logos, and Marlboro smokers experienced more cravings when they saw illustrations of the iconic Marlboro Man,” writes Lindstrom in his new book Brandwashed – Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy.
Another move that has been resorted to is the blurring out of smoking images when the trailers and songs of new movies are played on television. The song Chikni Chameli from Agneepath has some side dancers smoking bidis. This visual has been blurred out on television. In the trailers of Gangs of Wasseypur II the chillum being smoked by Faizal Khan has been blurred out. What is the point of doing this? I guess the only people who do not understand that the character is smoking a bidi or a chillum are the babus at the ministry of information and broadcasting. In fact the blurring may even attract adolescents and children and they might try to figure out what exactly is being blurred. Ironically scenes in older movies where characters are shown drinking and smoking continue to be broadcast as it is.
Also this does bring us back to the fundamental point whether cinema is a reflection of the world that we live in? The world that we live in allows smoking. It is not an illegal activity. But rape is illegal. And movies are allowed to show rape scenes. Actor Shakti Kapoor made a career out of raping film heroines on screen. So if rape scenes are allowed on screen what is the problem with smoking?
(The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on August 11,2012. http://www.firstpost.com/living/why-warnings-against-smoking-could-be-injurious-to-health-414602.html/2)
(Vivek Kaul is a writer who can be reached at [email protected] He does not smoke)