Actors Kubbra Sait and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in a still from the web series Sacred Games.
Actors Kubbra Sait and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in a still from the web series Sacred Games.

Internet freedom: What will censorship mean for entertainment on the web?

Following a Bombay High Court notice to the I&B Ministry, in response to a PIL demanding that web content be regulated and a pre-screening panel be set up, we ask industry insiders what they feel about possible certification of web content.
Hindustan Times | By Shreya Mukherjee, New Delhi
UPDATED ON OCT 07, 2018 06:04 PM IST

Just when more and more filmmakers and actors are taking the web route, drawn by the digital platform’s unfettered creative freedom, there is a possibility that censorship — or, at least, certification — might come here, too.

Read| Bombay High Courts issues notice to I&B Ministry to set up pre-screening committee for web shows

Responding to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Divya Ganeshprasad Gontia, a division bench of Bombay High Court on Friday issued a notice to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. The PIL sought regulation of web series or other streaming content, and demanded a pre-screening committee for all such content. The HC notice was also issued to the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Home Affairs, seeking replies by October end.

Reacting to the notice, the industry sounds divided. While some are for or against the notice, others feel one needs to wait and watch where this move leads. We tried getting in touch with the I&B ministry, but our efforts were not met with a response. Earlier, in an interview with HT, Bollywood star Salman Khan said that he favoured certification. The actor said that his production house had “four to five shows and web content lined up”, but that “will not be like the stuff that is coming out on these platforms”.

SALMAN KHAN, actor, who has hinted that his production company might create web content soon

“We want to use certificates in the web as well. There are all kinds of stuff, and people are watching it, no problem. But I do have a problem with it not being censored. Kids from the age of five to 13-14 are watching this kind of stuff. If I have children around, I will make sure that they don’t come close to this. Adults watching content with gaali galoch is fine. They are all grown-ups. We can’t control what fills anyone’s entertainment appetite. But if a four-year old kid watches it on tablets or phones, it is not cool. There should be some responsibility.”



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SUMEET VYAS, actor, known for his writing and also acting on web shows such as Permanent Roommates, Bang Baaja Baaraat, and TVF Tripling

“This sounds like a wise move. If this is a cautionary move, then there’s no harm in it. But I have a feeling that once it starts, it might take an ugly turn. It’s also important who all will be appointed to the pre-screening [panel], what is their understanding of the web liberty, freedom of speech and expression on the Internet… After all, it’s Internet at the end of the day. Keeping a watch on what’s being uploaded here is fine, but what about everything that is coming from across the globe? How do you monitor or control that? So the whole thing is much bigger than what it looks right now. I want to wait and watch to see what happens next before drawing any conclusion.”



KUBBRA SAIT, actor, who played the role of Kukoo, a transgender bar dancer, in Sacred Games

“The move is a little upsetting. Is it the right approach to curb the freedom of when to watch, what to watch, where to watch and how much to watch? More so, when there’s so much available on the Internet already and that, too, from all over the world. More than policing adults, I think parental control on children is more important. I remember a mother came up to me and said that her 16-year-old son watched and liked Kukoo, and I was like ‘Why did he watch it in the first place at this age?’ I don’t mind losing out on a member of my audience for what is right.

“When people tell me that Kukoo is a bold character, my only reply is it was not meant to titillate anyone. It was the truth of her life as per the story. You know, the more you stop people from watching something, the more they want to watch it. I love watching series on the web and some are based on real-life instances and involve adult content, but that was required because they are real. Come on, Kamasutra is in our [culture]. Also, we’re the country to embrace a former adult actor (Sunny Leone) and have made her a mainstream actress, which is amazing and makes me proud. I watched Karenjit Kaur - The Untold Story of Sunny Leone, the web series based on her journey and liked it. Also, the latest court verdicts on Section 377 and adultery gave us so much hope.”



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VIKRAM BHATT, filmmaker, known for his web series Maaya - Slave Of Her Desires, Twisted, Gehraiyaan, Rain, and Spotlight - Bollywood Exposed

“It’s going to be very difficult to control content on the web; after all, it’s available to everyone. Also to a certain extent, you can keep a check on streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon… but what about YouTube? Directives to ban or cut shows in the Indian market is possible, but how can you control the world market? I’m not sure how the web falls under the ambit of the Cinematograph Act. There’s a difference between watching a film with several other people in a theatre and watching something on TV and the web in private. It’s important that the I&B Ministry issues a few directives for us to know the parameters to be followed, what’s right and what’s wrong. So, all I can say is that technology is making it difficult for the keepers of sanctity to rein in ‘vulgarity.’”

Author tweets @Shreya_MJ

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