NOC needed to show Army theme content on OTT: Industry reacts in defence
Documentaries, movies and OTT platforms that depict Army theme content will soon be asked to seek an NOC from the Ministry of Defence. Filmmakers say it will draw undue attention, and public should learn self-censorship.Updated: Aug 03, 2020 22:41 IST
Often when watching men in uniform, on screen, the emotions of pride and respect overwhelm us. Films based on the armed forces have mostly received a high viewership. But now, with the mode of entertainment shifting towards OTT platforms, there are ample examples of stories based on or revolving around the armed forces that are being showcased here. And some of these that are based on “Army theme” have been reported to be “distorting the image of the Indian Army”. The Ministry of Defence recently wrote a letter to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) seeking the need for all production houses to obtain an NOC from the Ministry before telecast of any film, documentary or web series on the Army theme.
“The responsibility should be more on content makers as the youth gets hugely influenced by cinemas, movies and media. People take cinematic liberties; like the recent issue with Ekta Kapoor’s series which was taken as an insult to the military.” – Atul Mohan, trade analyst
“Whenever a film is made on the Army, even after getting it censored you still have to show the film to the Chief of Army. The same guidelines will now be enforced for OTT platforms,” informs Atul Mohan, trade analyst, adding that this was a necessary step waiting to be taken. “The responsibility should be more on content makers as the youth gets hugely influenced by cinemas, movies and media. People take cinematic liberties; like the recent issue with Ekta Kapoor’s series which was taken as an insult to the military. These instances are the reason why the need of an NOC arose... In other countries such as UK, one has to get OTT content censored before it airs. Then why not in India?” adds Mohan veering the discussion towards the long pending concern of the need for OTT content censorship.
“These days actually, I find it hard to find something worthwhile to watch on OTT platforms and have my views on the quality of the content but, that doesn’t mean that we need to replace it with an arbitrary regime of NOCs and censorship,” opines filmmaker Ashvin Kumar, a National Award winner, adding, “People are far too smart and well informed today to impose such filters. The immediate result of imposing such a control is that it goes viral and more people get interested. We have to evolve more robust sentiments so as not to be hurt and affronted as easily as we seem to be and have more of a live and let live attitude. If you don’t like something, just skip the channel; don’t stop someone else from watching it. And don’t deny both the filmmaker and the audience the opportunity to create and view if they should wish!”
Ask those who have served their life for the country, and a different side of the story is heard. Col Ujjal Singh, Retired, says, “A number of times the content that goes on air has compromised the status of the military forces and there needs to be monitoring and censoring on this. Recently, I got to know that this web series received criticism for presenting an army wife in a bad light and also misusing the army uniform in an explicit scene. These things impact the morale of people facing hardships for the country on the border; they are ready to face death for their nation. Actually, about 40 years back, the uniform and cloth of army wasn’t sold in public. Now, even the security guards are given uniforms in the same cloth, and no body checks. It’s very difficult to be a fauji (soldier), and respect must be accorded to the defence forces.”
“Everyone is cognisant of the fact that the armed forces are a very important part of our life, and we need to be sensitive about their portrayal. This advisory isn’t a move to clamour anything. It will encourage content makers to take care of how the Army is represented.” – Samar Khan, director-producer
Those in the industry feel that the “problem stems from misrepresenting facts or showing content that is blasphemous and defamatory”. Director-producer Samar Khan, who is also producing the recent web series Avrodh – the Siege Within, says, “Creativity will always be subjective. Everyone is cognisant of the fact that the armed forces are a very important part of our life, and we need to be sensitive about their portrayal. Sometimes, mistakes happen, however, all creative people have a moral and self censorship compass inside them... This advisory isn’t a move to clamour anything. It will encourage content makers to take care of how the Army is represented. This is a complex issue. I’ve made a lot of shows about the Army; they are very corporative and receptive to scripts. They are sensitive about the way the army is portrayed because they serve the nation and have love for the uniform, and we as filmmakers will have to be sensitive to that. When I made Shaurya (2008), I showed both the sides of the point and I got a good feedback from the Army and they said that there are bad apples everywhere, and we need to talk about it. But, we need to talk about it in a responsible way. So it’s all about how you treat the content with sensitivity by celebrating the good things and condoning the bad.”
Author tweets @FizzyBuddha