The Tandav row has once again brought to focus the debate over whether OTT content in India should be censored. While many netizens support the idea, others wonder if censorship is the only way to end the controversy. Tandav, a drama series set against the backdrop of politics, was recently slammed by several people who claimed that it provokes communal disharmony and hurts sentiments of the Hindus.
"I urge honorable Minister Shri @PrakashJavdekar, please ban Tandav web series and order to make all webseries under censor board. #BanTandavNow," tweeted one user.
Another wrote: "IB ministry should stop broadcast first n ask them to get censor certificate. Infact IB should constitute a separate board for censorship for all the OTT content."
Another netizen simply said: "CENSOR OTT PLATFORMS!! #Tandav."
One went on to suggest: "There should be a censor board for OTT, Tandav has crossed all the limits.. Agenda driven show by director and producers of the show."
Filmmaker Vikram Bhatt, who has created thematically provocative web series such as Maaya and Twisted, is against the idea.
"I oppose censorship of any kind. We are a free and democratic country. Constitution of India gives us the right to freedom of opinion and speech. If there is something, then you are free to go to the court. The law will tell you whether the piece of content is objectionable or not. I don't think there should be any kind of censorship," Bhatt told IANS.
Uttaran actress Tina Datta made her digital debut with the web series, Naxalbari. She feels people live in a day and age with access to internet and that "there is no way of truly censoring content".
"Kids have access to everything, and so it is a challenging decision and one that needs to be thought out," Tina said.
Young actor Nikhil Bhambri, who has featured in web series "Black Widows", "Who's Your Daddy" and "Puncch Beat", finds OTT censorship "unnecessary as the freedom of content gets compromised". He added: "Let's not limit OTT platforms".
Whether a government body is required to look into the content of digital platforms or not, is yet to be decided. Meanwhile, let us take a look at Hindi web projects that have run into trouble in the last few months.
Many have issues with the newly-launched series, especially a scene that features actor Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub performing a college play. Protestors feel the sequence insults the Hindu deity Shiv. Condemning the depiction of the Hindu Gods and Goddesses in the Saif Ali Khan-starrer, BJP's Rajasthan unit chief Satish Poonia said that India's democracy gives freedom of expression, but in the name of liberty many films insult Hindu deities, which is highly objectionable.
On January 18, series creator Ali Abbas Zafar apologised on behalf of the entire cast and crew, saying they did not intend to offend anyone or insult any religion and political party. In a new statement shared on Twitter a day later on Tuesday, Ali wrote: "We have utmost respect for the sentiments of the people of our country. We did not intend to hurt or offend the sentiments of any individual, caste, community, race, religion or religious beliefs or insult or outrage any institution, political party or person, living or dead. The cast & crew of Tandav have made the decision to implement changes to the web series to address the concerns raised towards the same. We thank the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for the guidance & support in the matter. We once again apologise if the series has unintentionally hurt anybody's sentiments."
However, Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad said that there was no question of pardoning the makers of the web series unless all Muslim actors and directors submit affidavits that they will not insult and ridicule Hindu Gods and goddesses.
Although the crime show released in October last year, it is still facing legal trouble. A case was filed against the producer of the web series and streaming platform Amazon Prime in Uttar Pradesh's Mirzapur district on Monday. According to the police reports, a case had been lodged by one Arvind Chaturvedi at the Kotwali police station. He has alleged that the web series hurts religious, social and regional sentiments and damages social harmony. It is alleged that religious feelings and beliefs have been greatly hurt by this series that focuses on abusive and illicit relationships.
Last year, Mirzapur MP and Apna Dal national president, Anupriya Patel, had also demanded an inquiry against the show. She had said that the web series, starring actors like Pankaj Tripathi and Ali Fazal, portrayed the district in a poor light and promoted caste violence.
AK Vs AK
The Indian Air Force was not too happy about Anil Kapoor wearing a wrong uniform and using abusive language in the film, which dropped digitally in December. The Air Force urged the streaming platform Netflix to remove the scenes with the discrepancies. Anil later apologised for unintentionally hurting sentiments of the Indian Air Force.
A Suitable Boy
In November, an FIR was registered in Madhya Pradesh against two Netflix officials for allegedly hurting religious sentiments through the web series A Suitable Boy. "On the basis of a complaint filed by Gaurav Tiwari, an FIR is being registered under section 295 (A) (malicious acts to outrage and insulting the religious feelings and beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in Rewa against Netflix officials -- Monika Shergill and Ambika Khurana," Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra had said in a video. Prior to that, Mishra had hinted at possible legal action against the makers of the web series. He had said the state police have been asked to probe the web series by Mira Nair to check if kissing scenes in the show had been shot in a temple or not.
The series has revived actor Bobby Deol's career, but in November director Prakash Jha was served legal notice for allegedly hurting Hindu sentiments. The legal notice was sent to the OTT platform MX Player, which streams the show, as well as Jha, on the ground that is was "directly targeting the ancient tradition, custom, culture of Hindu, Ashramas Dharma". The notice was sent by Surjeet Singh, Pradesh Sangathan Mahamantri of Karni Sena.
Then, in December a court in Jodhpur issued notice to Jha and Deol in a case filed against the web series. Advocate Khush Khandelwal had said he had moved the court against Jha's web series in which Deol plays a fraud godman, and Hindu gurus have been shown as rapists and drug traffickers.
Released in May last year, it was produced by Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma. Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president Manjinder Singh Sirsa had shared his concern about the depiction of Sikh characters in the series, which starred Jaideep Ahlawat, Neeraj Kabi, Ishwak Singh and Abhishek Bannerjee. He had especially objected to a scene where a Sikh man was shown to be raping a woman while another Sikh man watched.
Indra Hang Subba, MP from Sikkim, had written to Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar over the sexist slur used by one of the characters on the show. His complaint said that more than 10.5 million people in India speak Nepali and they were deeply affected by the incident. The Bharatiya Gorkha Yuva Parisangh, the youth wing of Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh, had also objected to the slur.