An unexpected and all-too-sudden notification from the Information & Broadcasting ministry signed by the President of India, informing that the booming digital platform in India would now be monitored by the Indian Government, has thrown the Indian film industry into a tizzy. The notification issued on November 9 gives the Ministry Of Information and Broadcasting the power to regulate content on the OTT platform.
Young actor Tanuj Virwani who is a topnotch name on the digital platform after his career-making performances in the webseries Inside Edge, Poison and Code M sees this as the deathknell of artistic liberty on screen. “I personally feel there will be a dramatic change in the content on the OTT (Over The Top) platform. For the past two years it was like an open season on the digital platform with unlimited freedom to say and show what we want. That will end.” ALSO READ: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video And Other OTT Platforms To Be Now Regulated By I&B Ministry
Tanuj who is the son of the popular 1980s’ actress Rati Agnihotri feels the unlimited freedom on OTT platform has been abused. “Many of us have misused the absence of censorship in India on the digital platform. We are definitely going to be reined-in now. I just hope censorship on OTT won’t curb our freedom of expression to a damaging degree. Because I really feel the OTT is the way forward. Let’s see…Fingers crossed. There can’t be the same censorial yardsticks for all OTT shows. Often a certain amount of abusive language, nudity and drugs are pivotal to the story. At other times one feels these ingredients are being used to sensationalize the product on OTT. The I&B Ministry must look at every show on its own merits and lnot use a common yardstick for all.” ALSO READ: I&B Ministry Warns Channels To Avoid “Suggestive, Age-Inappropriate” Portrayal Of Kids On Shows
Actor Akshay Oberoi, popular in the OTT series High, Selection Day, and Inside Edge agrees with Tanuj. “Working in the OTT space gave me the freedom to play parts that would not be written for the screen. I understand that we should not be irresponsible as content creators.”
Mirzapur produced by Farhan Akhtar and his partner Ritesh Sidhwani might have played a part in the I&B ministry stepping into the digital domain. Sources close to the I&B ministry say Mirzapur “went overboard with the excessive verbal and visual violence.”
Film critic turned filmmaker Karan Anshuman who is the creative mind behind Mirzapur (he’s co-creator, co-writer, co-producer) feels a rating-system might be the right answer. “There should be no censorship of any kind. Instead a move to a ratings system. It's simple... If you don't like it, don't watch it. There is enough technology tools to prevent kids from watching the wrong programs.”
Television star Karanvir Bohra who has lately been active on the OTT platform feels the I&B guideline affects only those who try to please with sleaze. “It will only affect those who think sex sells. The top shows that have done extremely well or are really good are the ones with less sex and sleaze and the unnecessarily abusive language.Yes that too will subside. I'm not too fond of so many gaalis. It looks and sounds unnatural.”
In the West when Netflix acquired the controversial haunting Belgian film on a sex change issue titled Girl, they issued a warning saying, “film covers sensitive issues, and includes some sexual content, graphic nudity, and an act of self-harm.”
But former censorboard chief actress Asha Parekh feels issuing warnings before adult content on OTT is not enough of a disincentive. “Just because you warn the audience that the show is suited for only those above 16 or 18, how can you ensure kids won’t watch it? They have free access to all content on the internet. At the same time, you can’t censor content on the internet. When Amazon cut scenes from director Francis Lee’s gay film God’s Own Country he advised audiences not to see it on digital.”
Another former censor board chief filmmaker Pahlaj Nihalani thinks checks and curbs on the digital platform are the need of the hour. “Any and every kind of content is being shown. Many of them have unnecessary use of abusive language just for effect. Censorship should and must be applied to digital shows and I welcome the I&B ministry’s decision to monitor what goes on the internet.”
This writer made several attempts to contact the Minister for Information & Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar directly on his number and through his personal assistant. There was no response.
Image Source: Instagram/tanujvirwani/akshay0beroi/karanvirbohra, twitter/kvbohra
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