A still from the movie 'Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl' which was released on Netflix. The Indian Air Force (IAF) had written a letter to the Censor Board objecting to its 'undue negative' portrayal in the movie. (PTI (FOR REPRESENTATIONAL PURPOSE ONLY))
A still from the movie 'Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl' which was released on Netflix. The Indian Air Force (IAF) had written a letter to the Censor Board objecting to its 'undue negative' portrayal in the movie. (PTI (FOR REPRESENTATIONAL PURPOSE ONLY))

Curtain call: Time to cut it out

There has been a rising demand for the need to censor content on the OTT platforms, now more than ever as consumption on these platforms has increased
By Nipun Dharmadhikari
UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2021 11:58 PM IST

There has been a rising demand for the need to censor content on the OTT platforms, now more than ever as consumption on these platforms has increased.

A few years ago the censor board was in the news (again) because of the antics of Mr. Nihlani and also because of the controversy the roast video of the now disbanded All India Bakchod had created. I had begun questioning the need to “censor” anything.

Those feelings resurfaced after I read the news that there might be a regulatory body for OTT platforms.

I recently had a funny experience with the film censor board during the screening of a biopic I have co-written and directed.

I was very confident that there is nothing objectionable in my film and was pretty relaxed when the board members were watching it. I was surprised when they raised a concern after the screening.

A scene in my film shows an eminent personality having a drink. (The reason why I am not taking any names here is not self-censorship, but because I do not want to divulge the details of my film before it is released.)

They asked me to get a letter of no objection from the personality’s family in order to get the censor certificate.

I was taken aback because the scene showed the person merely having that drink. He was not misbehaving because of it nor was he presented in any undignified light. In fact, we did not even show alcohol!

In the scene, he transfers the liquid in question from a metal flask to a metal container. And it is also public knowledge that this personality used to have a drink or two in real life.

I mentioned all this to the board members, but to no avail. I was told that if I wanted my film to have a censor certificate with that scene intact, I had no choice but to get that letter of no objection.

I can now laugh about all this because eventually we were able to get the letter in time and the family was also gracious to praise the film and the depiction of their father in the letter.

Why couldn’t the board members see this? To equate smoking or alcohol with something negative doesn’t need any intelligence. A computer program could have identified this and given this result.

To have a minute-long advertisement before the start of the film and also immediately after the interval to prevent tobacco use is also something that doesn’t make sense to me.

It is included in the length of the film!

I have always believed that the job of a censor board should not be to remove, or to object to, the content, but to certify it.

They should mention who the content is suitable for. Based on that, the audience should make a choice whether they want to give their time or money to this. People in our country get influenced by films and film stars. True.

They emulate their stars - their fashion, their styles, their behavior, everything.

Films might play a major role in the prevalence of a sexist society too. It is easy and unfair to blame only art forms for this. We have enough political and moral censorships to deal with anyway.

Depicting real-life personalities is always very tricky. And in a country like ours, you never know why some people might get offended. I wonder if that should stop a person from telling stories. Criticism or such reactions are part and parcel of this profession.

I was happy when OTT platforms entered India and started producing content for and by Indians. I enjoyed the freedom and range of topics it offered to the creators. I may not agree with everything that is shown, but then I stop watching it and shift to something else just by pressing a button on the remote. It is that simple!

Yes, there will be some hiccups, but people and their choices will dictate what will get produced in the long run. There is no need for a middle-man to dictate that.

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