Last night I was smoking. My housemate, like many times before, came up to me and started yelling at me. She asked me to stop it, because it’s harmful for me. I told her that I was aware of all the consequences, and smoke because I want to, I like to. I have told her this so many times. And then again she says – Fuck you! I am passive smoking, it is affecting me. And then I go – Ah! Why don’t you cut the crap and come to the point then? It affects you, and that’s your problem, not mine. She made a face at me and left. Well, I only smoke inside my room and she claims that the smoke reaches hers, which is downstairs. So I just smile.
This reminded me today of a Bollywood movie called No Smoking, by Anurag Kashyap. Anurag Kashyap is a rare gem, a director who expresses himself in the most brutally delicate ways possible. Bollywood has not given him his dues, but he does not give a fuck.
No Smoking has the dumbest actor Bollywood has got in its lead, an average actress playing his wife, and two of the best character actors playing awesome roles. This movie failed miserably at box office. K is an arrogant chain-smoker, and the movie’s plot runs about him trying to quit smoking, because people around him want him to. Everyone watched it, its histrionics and tricks and dream world, and thought it was a movie about smoking. The movie is anything but about smoking. It has a deep meaning to it, I believe. Anurag Kashyap is not a director who creates movies to surprise, to show off. This movie has a really deep meaning to it.
K signs himself up for quitting smoking, because people want him to. Much like how you sign up for things you do not want to do, but because people want you to do them. His arrogance and narcissism, though pungent, are silent metaphors for rebellion. Not the for-the-heck-of-it-rebellion, but genuine rebellion. He finds out that he has signed up for something bizarre, something that he cannot sign himself out of anymore. The consequences of smoking are going to cost him things that are dear to him. He is shown fear. If he does not follow the rules, he will lose things and people in his life, one by one. Much like how you are forced to do things in life out of fear, than volition. You have to go by the rule book, by what others have written down for you, and not by your own will. Your actions that can possibly affect only you, but they are thwarted, because do not have a choice. In the end, the thing that he loses is his soul. He has quit smoking, but his soul watches his body that has quit smoking, and is in a room with his people. He has sold himself out, sold out his soul. He did not quit because he wanted to, but because others wanted him to. Smoking has probably been chosen by Anurag because of its strong emphasis. It is unarguably bad for health, and smokers and non-smokers alike cannot argue about it. I am sure it has been chosen as a prop very intelligently.
In this life, a lot of people want you to do things that they want you to do. They do not have a good argument to support their claims, and when asked for one, it’s an emotional barrage.