While many in Bollywood have rubbished the recent decision of the Maharshtra government to raise the eligibility age for drinking alcohol from 21 to 25, some do endorse the state government decision.
Veteran star Hema Malini, also an active Bharatiya Janata Party politician, supports the government’s decision. “I think it’s a very good decision,” she says.
Director Anant Mahadevan is all for the ban. “I support the move because cigarettes and alcohol are the most abused substances. I say why not ban cigarettes too for under 25?”
Seconding Hema Malini and Mahadevan is actor-activist Shabana Azmi who thinks this decision is significant because of the increase in alcohol abuse.
“It has not been done ad-hoc. Recent survey shows that alcohol consumption among the young has reached dangerous levels and frequency of drink-driving accidents has increased among the young even though they’ve reduced among older generations. It is fine for hard liquor not to be served in public places although they’ll still drink privately, but at least in safer surroundings,” says Azmi.
But supporters of the ban are very few, as compared to those who do not quite agree with Azmi’s view.
Director Rahul Dholakia, who’s making a film on prohibition says: “I think if you can vote for a government at 18, you are obviously an adult who can decide what is right or wrong for you and your country.”
Director Ram Gopal Varma slams the new law. “They should raise the minimum voting age to 25 as I can’t understand how, if a guy below 25 is unqualified to decide if he should drink or not, is qualified to decide who forms the government.”
Actor Shekhar Suman considers it to be a “bizarre” and “stupid” legislation.
“I think someone thought of this in a drunken stupor. In a country where the voting and marriage age is 18, I don’t think the government has any damn business to tell grownups when to drink,” he said.
Director Jagmohan Mundhra says this ban will lead to an increased sale of alcohol.
“Instead of banning stuff that would be even more favoured when forbidden, the government should concentrate on educating youth on responsible behaviour. Banning alcohol only encourages illicit trade and criminalization,” he says.
Director Vikram Bhatt feels the right age should be 21. “25 is a bit much I think. 21 seems right. If you’re responsible enough to cast a vote at 21, you are responsible enough to hold your drinks,” he says.
“If this is how we think, let’s not call ourselves a democracy,” says producer Vipul Shah.
Rubbishing the ban, actor Pooja Bedi says: “Absolutely absurd. Alcohol can de-stress, calm you and you can be healthy when taken in moderation. We can get married, have sex, bear children, work, pay taxes vote etc at 18. But we can’t drink!”
Mahesh Bhatt feels the government would fail to implement this rule. “How will they implement this new rule?” he asks.
But television actor Ronit Roy thinks harsh punishments should be given for drink-driving rather than passing such laws.
“Where is this coming from?…Instead of such laws, we should have public messages for responsible drinking by alcohol companies and stricter action for alcohol-related crimes including drunken driving. More than drinking I think we need to curb drug abuse,” he says.
Similarly actor Kabir Bedi slams the law as “crap”. “It will be as successful as the liquor licence every drinker in Mumbai is supposed to have. Scrap silly laws. Don’t make more. There’re bigger things to worry about.”
Shekhar Kapoor feels that the law will not be followed.
“It says they cannot be served drinks. Does that also mean they can’t pick it up themselves?” he asks.