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Taking offence at *beep* everything!

The number of things that 'offend' people these days is mind-boggling. And TV is a prime target. The amount of censoring on TV channels — particularly English general entertainment and movie channels — borders on the crazy. Poonam Saxena writes.

tv Updated: May 31, 2013 23:18 IST

The number of things that 'offend' people these days is mind-boggling. And TV is a prime target. The amount of censoring on TV channels — particularly English general entertainment and movie channels — borders on the crazy. Forget scenes, the list of words that are censored can run into pages. ‘Sex’ is routinely beeped out even if the usage is something like ‘the opposite sex.’ God forbid a character says something like ‘working my butt off’ — the word ‘butt’ will be beeped out. Someone utters the word ‘beef?’ Take it off right now! Anytime a cigarette or the very mention of a cigarette appears on screen, there’s a tobacco warning that flashes onscreen, sometimes bang in the middle of the frame. Viewing pleasure is so severely compromised, you feel like switching the TV off and seeing the programme/show concerned on the Internet or on DVD (which, by the way, is already happening. Is it even worth watching, say, Game of Thrones, when half the show is so mercilessly censored?)

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s decision to black out Comedy Central for 10 days because of “vulgar,” “obscene” and “inappropriate” content (telecast in May last year) is just the latest case in point. Fortunately, the Delhi High Court has stayed the Ministry’s order and the channel is back on air.

The first things that intolerant, moralistic, orthodox people the world over (particularly in the ultra-conservative pockets) attack are movies, television, entertainment, books, music, dance, art, non-traditional attire. Their first instinct is to censor them or better still, remove them altogether. (Have we forgotten how the Taliban in Afghanistan in fact banned all of these things?)

But since it is part of a democratic, modern nation with a progressive Constitution, does it behove the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to ban an entertainment channel because somebody found something the channel aired “vulgar”?

If that is so, every single channel on air is sure to telecast something or the other that somebody or the other will find offensive. So will the Ministry start banning all of them, one after the other, till we’re only left with Doordarshan?

The good news is that a whole lot of new shows are coming up on most channels, now that the cricket is over. Sony has already set the ball rolling with its new historical drama, Bharat Ka Veer Putra — Maharana Pratap. Rana Pratap is probably one of the most fascinating characters from medieval Indian history, with a stirring, dramatic story. The serial has just begun and he is still a young boy (incidentally, he is being played by Faisal Khan, the winner of the Dance India Dance Little Masters Season). The production values of Bharat Ka Veer Putra are decent, and the story-telling follows the highly dramatic style that most of our TV historicals favour — with larger-than-life characters, blazing speeches, heroic deeds etc. Let’s see how the show develops.