First of all, why does the question of censorship arise at this time and date?
If the news that is making rounds about the government of India to soon conduct a meeting with the leading OTT players in India for the regulation and censorship of online streaming content then it can be a problem for both the parties- i,e. this new batch of open-minded binge-watchers who are interested in the raw subject of the society or these OTT channels who are true in bringing in authentic content in the forefront to the Indian masses. Until now, unlike movies and tv shows streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Hotstar remained outside of the Central Board’s jurisdiction which ensures that any image or profanities that are overtly sexual or raunchy should be blurred and muted.
I guess what triggered the other half of the conservative audiences was when ‘Sacred Games’ insulted former Prime Minister and Congress leader. And in public interest litigation filed in the Bombay High Court, it was argued that web series were displaying “pornographic content” and “vulgar gestures” that were ”overriding the Indian culture”. However, the government cannot regulate online content as these channels don’t come under Cinematograph Act of 1962 and therefore in response to this litigation the bench had passed a notice seeking The latest entry to regulate online content is the dystopian Netflix original ‘Leila’. This web series has provoked right-wing Hindu organizations such as RSS and VHP over the negative way Leila has portrayed Hindu customs and rituals. A member of Sangh Parivar said that it represents ancient Hindu concepts of oppressing women and restricting their birthrights but won’t be found anywhere in Hindu scriptures which is why the series is being defamatory. But don’t you think since the ancient time women have been oppressed by their male counterpart or the patriarchal system. Or the concept of Hindutva, isn’t it prevalent now?
And then there are other shows like Four More Shots, Made In Heaven, Ghoul, The Patriot Act that also backed up the decision of the conservatives to censor online contents. But because of these shows, the content like pseudo-woke groom demanding dowry at the altar, or gay issues, etc which for many years were on the cutting room floor because of the censor board is now coming out through these platforms. Here the writers are getting creative freedom without any constraints as well as the audience that can now watch the unfiltered stark reality of the society.
So in order to evade censorship platforms like Netflix, Hotstar will be signing self-regulatory code under the Internet and Mobile Association in India (IMAI). However, Amazon has no plans to sign up the voluntary code as they believe the current laws are adequate to fulfil this mission.
Having said that, if a neutral regulatory body is formed, it can be useful as regulation can always prove useful. And moreover not all online shows are productive, some shows might use the leniency of this freedom.
Anyway, whatever the outcome of the decision is, the coming days will decide. But this kind of content can’t be kept away from the audience because it can be illegally downloaded. As Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Manto from the biopic Saadat Hasan Manto says, “neem ke patte karwe sahi, kam se kam khoon to saaf karte hai” ( Neem leaves might be bitter but at least they purify blood). Most of these shows are a reflection of society and denying this reality doesn’t make us anymore humane as a society.