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By directly intervening in the controversies involving Tandav the web series by Amazon, the Information and Broadcasting has opened the doors for controlling the OTT platforms like Netflix,Hotstar etc.

Team Tandav was granted a three-week pre- arrest transit bail by the Bombay High Court including director Ali Abbas Zafar, producer Himanshu Krishna Mehra, writer Gaurav Solanki and Amazon Prime content head Aparna Purohit.

Naming the Amazon in the FIRs is odd because before launching the serial they clearly mention that Amazon does not agree with the comments or the content of the series.

But when FIRs ate filed by BJP and Shiv Sena MLAs and officer bearers in various parts of the country no one dare ask questions.Bowing to pressure tactics the producers removed two scenes under pressure from the religious and other organisations.

Since the pandemic broke out last year people were confined to their homes for months.

It as during that time that OTT platforms came out with their best creativity not only to provide entertainment to people but also to provide alternative employment and opportunities to film and TV artistes

Till two months back they had a hey day because the censor board rules and regulations did not apply to them.True, there was a surfeit of violence and use of cuss words became common. Even an actor like Manoj Bajpai had to say ‘Fuck you’ 10 times in a 15 minute short film. The producers argued that the choice of watching or not was that of the viewer.He always had the remote in his hand to decide whether he wanted to see or hear something.But all that changed since November 11, 2020 when under heavy lobbying and complaints by netas that they were being maligned in the web series the digital platforms also came under the Ministry.

In the run up to the Tandav controversy the I&B Ministry directly summoned Amazon Prime and the show’s makers for an explanation even before the first FIR was filed against it. Since then, several it’s been a virtual flood of FIRs being filedin UP, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The complainants include BJP MLA (Ghatkopar West, Mumbai) Ram Kadam. Since Bollywood is based in Mumbai the Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had to issue a statement that formal action would be taken in accordance with the law.

While television also has a self-regulatory body and code, the I&B Ministry, based on complaints or inputs by its Electronic Media Monitoring Centre, can now punish channels for violations of the Cable TV Network (Regulations) Act. However, the show is given an opportunity to respond, and a decision is taken by an inter-ministerial committee.

The I&B Ministry held two meetings with director Zafar and producer Mehra, following which they issued a statement saying they would change the content that had drawn complaints, and thanked the government for its “guidance” and “support”. The makers also issued an apology for “unintentionally” hurting anyone’s sentiments.

The first of the two scenes edited out of Tandav — both are in the first episode of the nine-part series — features the protagonist named Shiva Shekhar (actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), playing the role of Lord Shiva in his college play, wearing trousers, T-shirt, rudraksh mala and bearing a trishul, with a cross painted across his face.

He is discussing with another student playing Narad Muni the rising popularity of Lord Ram, during which he uses a cuss word that had been beeped out. Shiva goes on to address students in the audience directly and, in an obvious reference to the JNU ‘sedition’ row, asks what they want “azadi (freedom)” from.

The second scene that is now removed has ‘Prime Minister’ Devaki Nandan (actor Tigmanshu Dhulia) speaking disparagingly to a Dalit politician, Kailash Kumar (Anup Soni).

After this the door is wide open.Other major OTT shows that have had complaints filed against them include Sacred Games (like Tandav, also featuring Saif Ali); A Suitable Boy; Paatal Lok; Leila; and Mirzapur, among others. Congress leaders had been among the complainants against Sacred Games, alleging insult to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. A Suitable Boy faced the heat for a scene of a Muslim man kissing a Hindu woman at a temple; while a BJP MLA had filed a case against Paatal Lok makers for using his photograph. A Shiv Sena member had filed a complaint against Leila for allegedly defaming the country .

By Amitabh Srivastava ( Famous Writer and Blogger)


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