“Look up the word ‘bizarre’ in the dictionary. It doesn’t mean dark. Was Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind a dark film? It was bizarre. No dictionary in the world says bizarre means dark or vice versa. This is the problem with Indians; they come with fixed notions. What is the definition of dark? Tell me!”– An exasperated No Smoking writer/director Anrag Kashyap in an interview
DIRECTED BY: Anurag Kashyap
FEATURING: John Abraham, Ayesha Takia, Ranvir Shorey, Kiku Sharda, Paresh Rawal
PLOT: K, an arrogant businessman and highly-addicted chain smoker, agrees to enter a smoking-cessation program after his wife threatens to leave him. Going to the address his friend gave him, K is led through a labyrinth and forced to sign a contract which specifies that his loved ones will be harmed in increasingly severe ways every time he smokes a cigarette. Naturally, K relapses into smoking and is caught, eventually winding up trapped in a nightmare world.
- The script (at least its early sections) bears some striking similarities to ‘s short story “Quitters, Inc.,” which was previously a segment of the 1985 anthology Cat’s Eye. The writer/director admits the story was an inspiration, although the credits do not mention King.
- No Smoking was Anurag Kashyap’s third movie, but the first one released in India. His debut, Paanch, was never released outside of international film festivals due to state censorship (for violence and drug use); his second film, Black Friday, a true crime story, was delayed while a court case was pending and released after No Smoking. He later achieved mainstream success with 2009’s Dev D, an adaptation of a popular novel.
- No Smoking was a colossal flop in its native India, where it baffled audiences with little exposure to psychological thrillers or surreal cinema.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: The bathtub sitting alone on a snowy plain in Siberia, just in sight of what appears to be a Soviet-era gulag, which appears in dream sequences at the beginning and end of the movie.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Hitler’s Indian buddy; Fosse’s cigarette cabaret; banana peel suicide
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: No Smoking isn’t quite what would result if got a wild hair to direct a Bollywood film—but it’s a reasonable approximation. With its theme of bad men forced to forgo their vices against their will, it’s a bit like a Hindi twist on A Clockwork Orange, as well, only with more elaborate musical numbers. With the tropes of Indian popular cinema colliding against a Western-style neo-surrealist narrative, No Smoking is neither fish nor fowl; it totally confounded Indian audiences used to simple stories with happy endings, and it will probably confound you, too.
Hindi trailer for No Smoking
COMMENTS: Anurag Kashyap’s Advice for How to Stop Smoking in Continue reading 295. NO SMOKING (2007)