If there is a law in place, one is bound to follow it and behave accordingly. In the United Kingdom, all movie and OTT content is subject to censors and, all major platforms that operate there, have been getting their content duly rated from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).
The only OTT platform that had avoided committing itself to this system was Amazon Prime. It has now signed up for the British Content Rating Guidelines and offers age-wise ratings for content.
As many as 29 Video On Demand and OTT streaming platforms operate in the UK and all of them provide age ratings for their content.
The censorship of films in India is a British legacy, of course. The intentions were different when it was launched. The British Raj wanted to curb anything that smacked of being against it. The Indian State has continued to subject films to censorship as the moral guardian of the public.
This is the same country, ironically, that promotes tourism in the name of caves filled with reliefs of 'maithuna' and is proud of being the country of Vatsyayana and his 'Kama Sutra'! Actually, films rarely if ever depict sex or obscenity. The purpose of the censor board is mainly to check on gore and violence.
The point is, Indian authorities have such a cockeyed view that while they go extra hard on movies, they let anything and everything pass as OTT content! The Government of India keeps banning porn sites (you know the kind politicians and lawmakers enjoy when Parliament and state assemblies are in session!), but it lets all the vulgarity it doesn't want people to watch on porn sites, to appear on OTT platforms.
This vulgarity on OTT is being dished out on a regular basis and the visuals and language used reflect the same depraved mindset that rapists of three- and six-year-old girls have.
OTT series such as 'Special Ops', 'Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story', 'The Family Man', 'Panchayat' and 'Criminal Justice' were greatly appreciated and not because they carried filthy stuff. But makers still churn out the series that ooze obscenity, vulgarity and gore.
The powers that be don't like the courts directing them in every matter, but lethargy on their part leads to courts becoming the final destination. A lot many decisions that the government should take are left for the courts to effect.
The government's views is so cockeyed that it wants films to be clean and wholesome, but, at the same time, the content on OTT platforms depict vulgarity ad nauseam. Films are rated A, UA, U, and so on, and the cinemas, at least in major centres, follow the norms. In the case of OTT content, which reaches our homes, we have no control and even children have access to it.
The courts have now decided to step in. This week, the Delhi High Court took cognizance of the matter. It observed that the content of the TVF-produced web series 'College Romance' on Sony's OTT platform was "obscene, lascivious and profane". The Court also asked the government to take steps to check the language on such platforms.
The judge, Swarana Kanta Sharma, found the language so obscene and vulgar that she had to use earphones to watch the episodes lest it shocked and alarmed people around.
The judge ruled that TVF, the show's director Simarpreet Singh and actor Apoorva Arora are liable to face action under Section 67 (publishing or transmitting, in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious) and 67A (punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act) of the Information Technology (IT) Act.
The court also observed that since the web series was available on YouTube, which is viewed by everyone in the country, there are no age restrictions.
This is a good start. Finally, the law has stepped in and, unless the government takes steps to check OTT content, more FIRs will follow, wasting the time and money of the courts.
Even Remakes Bomb: Now What?
South remakes don't work anymore and Hindi makers don't have the writers who can create an original idea. The last two film releases, 'Shehzada' and 'Selfiee', were remakes of 'Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo' (Telugu) and 'Driving Licence (MalayalamD), respectively. Both proved to be unmitigated disasters.
Imagine an Akshay Kumar-starrer opening to Rs 2.5 crore on Day One! The same star who turned everything he touched into gold not very long ago!
The problem is that borrowing stories from the South is no guarantee for success. Sadly, most remakes are action films and not all Hindi stars can justify action.
There are phases for all genres, and the action genre needs a pause. Action films in the good old days were considered B grade and were the domains of actors such as Dara Singh, Kamran Khan, Sheikh Mukhtar and others in this league, and they had their takers away from what was described as the 'gentry', the family audience.
The one South remake that has worked recently is Ajay Devgn's 'Drishyam 2', a franchise; the first part was also a success. But, these successes are nowhere like the films which boasted of figures between Rs 200 crore and Rs 300 crore a few years back.
Then came these South-dubbed films, which did business in bigger ranges, Rs 500 crore and more. The Hindi film industry was delivering flop after flop when Shah Rukh Khan decided to do something about it.
He came up with 'Pathaan', an action film akin to many others of the genre. Actually, action films have been a Salman Khan forte since his return with 'Wanted' in 2005. Akshay Kumar also made a name through action films, but also dabbled in nationalistic films and films of social relevance, which kept him in the reckoning. Now, the career of both these stars is dormant.
Today, it is the media and not the trade that has started deciding on a film's fate and outcome!
So, when the subject of 'Pathaan' crops up, the first question one is faced with is, how much of its success is genuine? Looks like throwing figures of Rs 500 crore and Rs 1,000 crore on social and other media does not seem to convince people.
In the present phase when Hindi films are not working, filmmakers and the stars will have to manage a hit. Just throw the figures, the media is easily convinced.
Meanwhile, there is good news. The China market has reopened for Hindi films and Yash Raj Films plans to release three films from its stable soon. The country boasts of 50,000 screens, but faces severe shortage of content.
The returns from China are not much -- usually, at the rate of 25 per cent of the gross. So what, you can always pass on gross collections to the media, who knows the difference?