“Censorship is a strong political tool in a country like India.”

So said Anurag Kashyap in an interview with Hindustan Times long ago. In his interview with Rohan Naahar, the film director also opines that “online streaming is going to change everything” and that he will keep making cinema even if certain films are more suitable for streaming.

Well, now, after a new notification issed by the central government, OTT platforms such as Netflix, Prime Video, Hotstar and several others will be regulated by the ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B Ministry). Effective immediately, the order brings all the platforms under the ministry, headed by Prakash Javadekar.

The Indian Express spoke to notable names from the film industry, who expressed their disappointment with the government’s new order. Film-maker Hansal Mehta told Indian Express, “While this decision wasn’t unexpected, it is still a reason for despair. This desperation for control of free speech and expression does not augur well. I am currently very disappointed.”

Mehta was correct when he said that this notification was a “reason for despair” because Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament Babul Supriyo just echoed our worst fears.

In an interview with Bollywood Hungama, the BJP minister said: “It would all be reasonable. It’s not as though we’ll suddenly clamp down on the OTT content. Filmmakers on the digital platform would still have comparatively a lot more freedom than on the large screen. The only thing is, freedom won’t be unlimited. You won’t be allowed to go on an abusive binge like (in) Mirzapur. Who swears this much at every opportunity?”

Supriyo also added that age restrictions should be placed on such content on OTT platforms. “We are not into moral policing. We only want children to be protected from watching content that is not suitable for them,” Supriyo had added.

While streaming platforms in India have been known to censor content themselves following social media outrage or alleged requests from the government, it is clearly not enough.

While the push for censorship is being put across as a worry that children will view nudity or listen to crass language on screen, many cannot help but feel that the urge for OTT regulation is heavily political.

“I certainly don’t want my child growing up to be exposed to some of the stuff that I see on a lot of channels and a lot of international transmissions that come into our homes. [There is a] lot of very poor portrayal of India and Indian society that is reflected,” said Railways Minister Piyush Goyal during remarks made at FICCI e-FRAMES 2020 first reported by Mint.

“Maybe other countries have had complete freedom to do and say what you want and show. But look at the levels of cultural depravity that is seen many other time. Look at what their children are going through. Look at their broken families,” Goyal added.

After all, “Parampara, Pratishtha, Anushasan. Yeh iss Gurukul ke teen stambh hai. Yeh woh aadarsh hain jinse hum aapka aane waala kal banaate hain.”


(Header credits: A still from Sacred Games)