Cops and psychologists in the City blame risky road behaviour by youngsters on cinema, but the film fraternity questions the link.
Cinema plays a major role in influencing the youth, so much so that fan worship has led today’s youth to mimic their favourite star’s behaviour and attitude. The debate on whether youngsters tend to replicate what they see on celluloid and whether cinema is indirectly responsible for many a gory traffic accident continues to date. While actors and directors deny that it is the movie’s responsibility, behaviour analysts and policemen think otherwise.
In Hyderabad, for instance, there have been many cases of youngsters, some the children of prominent citizens, speeding to their death on Outer Ring Road or KBR park road. While the ORR acquired the infamous “death road” tag, Necklace Road enjoys prominence as the favourite of bike race enthusiasts. Often, scores of young bikers flaunt their modified vehicles while driving with absolutely no protection. Which leads us to the root question. Where has the helmet rule disappeared?
AV Srinivas, admin inspector of traffic police, explains, “The helmet rule is as old as the Central Motor Vehicles Act, which was formulated during the British Raj. However, in Hyderabad, the (helmet) rule was enforced as a special drive three times — in 1986, 2002 and 2008. All the three times, the rule was taken off because of the immense hue and cry from the public. When politicians themselves promised that the helmet rule was unnecessary, the rule was inevitably shelved.”
Does that mean the police has its hands tied when it comes to enforcing rules? “Partly. For example, we cannot give too much importance to prominent personalities caught for drunk driving or traffic rule breaking in spite of the immense public pressure. We do not have any soft spots for them; the law is equal for everybody. Only 30 per cent of today’s motorists actually wear a helmet. When it comes to today’s youth, I am of the opinion that films do have a major role in influencing their audience and they should be really careful of what they are feeding them,” he said.
In 2011, 2,630 accidents were recorded, of which 1,200 involved two-wheelers and 130 of them were fatal. Post-mortem reports suggest that 76 per cent (98) of these deaths were due to grievous injuries to the head.
The film fraternity is not convinced of the link between movies and accidents. Actor Sundeep Kishan says, “90 per cent of all commercial mainstream films have helmets during the shoots and are also shown on screen. Some of them are regular scenes, like establishing the actor; the helmet covers the face and is therefore not shown. But during heavy duty stunts, helmets and body gear is a must during shoots.”
Director Anand Ranga too echoes this sentiment. “I think blaming films is not right. When it comes to safety norms and traffic sense, the audience is very much aware of who the actor is and who the body double is. And yes, during most chase scenes, the actor does wear a helmet.”
While there are no solid statistics to prove that films encourage risky road behaviour, behavioural psychologists believe there is a link. Kasinath Iyer, a behavioural psychologist from Bangalore, says, “I have treated sportsmen, bike riders, car drivers and youngsters in the 20-25 age group. Most of them confessed that hitting the pedal on long lonely roads gives them a rush, a feeling that they have felt while watching a really thrilling movie. While the adrenaline rush is known to increase brain activity, I am yet to identify if it leaves a stimulating memory retaining effect, like an addiction. Although I am yet to study the relation, the link does exist.”
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