One of Bollywood's top directors is embroiled in a row with India's strict film censors over anti-smoking messages that must be shown every time an actor lights up on screen.

Anurag Kashyap has filed a petition to the Bombay High Court objecting to the censorship board's demand that his new film "Ugly" must carry the mandatory anti-tobacco warnings, including during smoking scenes.

The petition comes after American director Woody Allen in October pulled his latest movie "Blue Jasmine" from India in protest at the warnings.

"Such unreasonable conditions clearly fetter the rights of filmmakers to free speech and expression enshrined by the Constitution of India," said Kashyap's petition, according to a statement from his publicist.

"Running a scroll not only destroys the aesthetic value of cinema but also diverts viewers from the film," he added.

As per the Central Board of Film Certification guidelines, a public service message on the ill-effects of tobacco plays before the start and after the interval of all films which depict characters smoking.

A sub-title stating that "Cigarette smoking is injurious to health" also must appear during every scene in which a character is seen with a cigarette.

"Ugly", a drama revolving around the kidnapping of a child starring Rahul Bhat and Tejaswini Kolhapure, had been scheduled for release in October.

Kashyap has said his film was "not an advertisement hoarding for social service messages", The Hindu newspaper reported.

"I as a filmmaker will not take on the charitable stance of ridding society of all its ills."

The film's tentative new release date is January 31, according to his publicist.

Kashyap, a star of the "Hindi indie" scene and known for films such as "Black Friday", "Dev D" and "Gangs of Wasseypur", was unavailable to comment to AFP on Wednesday.

Some Indian health workers have however supported the anti-smoking messages, in a country said to have the highest rates of oral cancer in the world, largely attributed to tobacco use.

"Please help us save those innocent lives rather than promote this killer industry," wrote Pankaj Chaturvedi, a Mumbai cancer surgeon and leading anti-tobacco campaigner, in an open letter to Woody Allen in October.

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