Industry jittery over OTT censorship talk

Mumbai-based advocate fighting case for regulation says all he seeks is a watchful eye. But filmmakersfear stifling of creativity
Last Updated 24 October 2019, 03:09 IST

Reports said the RSS was talking to OTT platforms and seeking restrictions on ‘anti-Hindu’ and ‘anti-national’ content. Netflix has rubbished the reports.

However, some people did protest in the wake of Netflix original show ‘Leila’ in June.

Made In Heaven is one of the latest showsto be noticed for ‘explicit and bold’ content.
Made In Heaven is one of the latest shows
to be noticed for ‘explicit and bold’ content.

Zee5’s ‘The Final Call’ and ‘Kafir’, and ‘The Patriot Act’ on Netflix, a comic talk show by Hasan Minhaj, also triggered resentment among those who thought the shows were taking swipes at the government.

The government says it is thinking about regulation, but has not come to any decision.

Over-the-top (OTT) platforms do not need a certification from the Central Board of Film Certification for their shows.

Several channels have said they will self-censor their content on the basis of guidelines issued by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

Industry experts talk about the developments.

‘Not asking for a ban’

Shyam Dewani, advocate

Divya Ganeshprasad Gontia is the advocate from Nagpur who petitioned the government to regulate content. He says he was prompted by the sexually explicit content in the web series ‘Sacred Games’ on Netflix.

The petition was filed by advocate Shyam Dewani.

“The language used, the nudity shown and the content about leaders in many shows are quite appalling. There are comments on religious communities and more. If things are not regulated now, a day will come when everything will be beyond our control,” he says.

Shows like ‘Gandii Baat’ on ALT Balaji are shocking, he says, because their explicit content is not justified.“I was told certain elements are introduced keeping youngsters in mind. I am not asking for a ban on web-series or online content. Our plea is just for regulation,” he says.

‘If West doesn’t censor it, we shouldn’t either’

M K Raghvendra, Film critic

Raghavendra feels if censorship for OTT platforms does not exist in the West, it shouldn’t in India either.

“If the country calls itself a democracy, it cannot have special laws for itself. When the West decides to do something, the argument is out in the public, with reasons being cited. Once the reasons are out there, they are thrashed out in the open. This does not happen in India,” he says.

Censorship for films can be understood, but arbitrary laws to control online content will not work, he says.

“Content on television has been growing; for example, a series like ‘Delhi Crime’ is way better than what is put out in the theatres,” he says.

‘OTT channels put out clear directives’

Vikram Yoganand, Kannada film director

Vikram has directed ‘Honeymoon’, an upcoming Kannada web series for an OTT channel.

He says OTT platforms provide a private space and should not be treated like films shown in public. “Films are easily accessible and so drawing a line is understandable. On OTT platforms like Netflix, the content is clearly classified and some content is only for adults or those 18-plus,” he says.

He feels that censorship of OTT could “kill creativity”.

“Most content there is art. Often nuances connected to a character or story are taken off when censorship comes in,” he says.

Vikram’s web-series is about a couple who go on a honeymoon and understand each other better in the process. “If censorship comes in, our web-series would also be affected,” he says.

‘Age guidelines the solution’

Sunil Raoh, actor and musician

Sunil acted in the first Kannada web-series ‘Loose Connection’, released on YouTube in 2017. He believes OTT platforms should not be censored.

“These platforms should be left alone because people who watch their material there are old enough to know better and judge for themselves. Most platforms are subscription-based,” he says.

And if censorship comes in, who judges that a particular project is all right and another is not, he wonders.

He favours strict age guidelines instead.

So what’s triggering anxiety?

Those campaigning for regulation are citing some recent productions as ‘being offensive.’

Sexually explicit content: Lust Stories and Sacred Games on Netflix, Four More Shots Please! and Made in Heaven on Amazon Prime Video, Gandii Baat on ALT Balaji.

Religious overtones:
Shows like ‘Leila’ is accused of being ‘anti-Hindu.’

(Published 23 October 2019, 15:34 IST)

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