In one of his essays in his book, “Thinking of Answers”, A.C.Grayling writes on the ban on smoking and its effect on movie-making:
Here is a real problem for actors and directors of feature films: how do you convey human emotion without the aid of a cigarette? Before cigarettes changed from being the ultimate symbol of cool to a dangerous bad habit, they provided a hook for every conceivable important movie moment: mystery, suspense (the face between the upturned collar points on the dark street, momentarily illuminated by the flare of the cigarette lighter), lust, seduction (Laura Bacall asking Humphrey Bogart for a light), anger, disappointment, rest, elegance, relief, tension, tranquility – in short, the human condition in the glow at the end of the a little tube of rolled up intoxicant leaf
Yes, coming to think of it, cigarettes (along with beedis, pipes and cigars) have been used extensively by movie directors in a variety of scenes. Whether it was a villain casually stubbing it out preparatory to raping a woman; or Al Pacino tormenting a to-be victim in ‘Godfather” , or Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, and several more, ‘smoking’ served as an excellent filler during a pause between action scenes or even during one. I guess it also made it easier for the actors to get their hands to do something and appear more natural.
Tamil movie watchers of my generation will remember Rajinikanth in this famous scene where he takes on the challenge of flipping his cigarette into the air and catching it with his mouth and to repeat this ten times. The prize if he succeeded: a Toyota car. And if he failed, he had to cut off his little finger. (Doesn’t matter that this was lifted from a Roald Dahl short story, “Man from the South”. )