By Vinod Mirani
New Delhi, Mar 26 (IANS): Finally, a central minister has woken up to the vulgar and abusive content on the various OTT platforms. All in the name of freedom of expression -- much more than what the century-old Indian film industry gets to enjoy.
It is rather strange that not only the country's ruling elite, but even the courts think that the OTT platforms were entitled to freedom, while the feature films were not! After reports and comments on the overdose of vulgar content in the news and social media, Information & Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur has warned the OTT platforms that obscenity and abusive language cannot be tolerated.
But then, ministers are known to make grand statements, but the implementation of the warnings/laws remains ineffective.
Why make a statement and why not take concrete steps to settle the issue once and for all? After all, this trend of dishing out vulgar, violent, gory depictions on OTT media was evident since their entry into India in 2016.
Few would know that many feature films banned for public exhibition in India are officially available on OTT platforms. Not to mention the foreign films that were also banned by the Censors.
The OTT platforms started off by buying films banned for theatrical release by the Censor Board for theatrical release. The first acquisition by Netflix as far as one can recall was 'Black Friday'.
The major films banned by the CBFC -- notably, 'Black Friday', 'Parzania', 'Inshaallah Football', 'Loev', 'Water', 'Fire', 'Kissa Kursi Ka', 'Gandu', 'Angry Indian Goddesses' and 'Unfreedom' -- are all available on the OTT platforms for everybody: adult, teenager and elderly alike!
What was the point in banning them? What is the use of having a Censor Board in India? These banned films on OTT platforms are a slap on the Censor Board and the government's skewed policy.
This is a kind of apartheid!
Last week, I&B Minister Anurag Thakur grabbed headlines when he reacted to the growing volume of obscenity and abusive language on the OTT platforms. It followed a number of complaints received by the government. If the government is serious about the complaints of increasing abusive and obscene content on OTT platforms, then there is a need to make changes in the rules. The minister did state that if needed the I&B ministry was willing to consider changing the rules.
Reads like a typical political statement. What is 'willing to consider'? Is the ministry blind? Don't they see what is being peddled in the name of creativity? You say you have received complaints, so act!
Stranger than the government's non-committal stand is the rejection by a court of a petition that asked for a committee to be set up to check OTT content before it's allowed to be streamed. A two-judge bench ruled that it was not feasible.
A committee can be formed on the lines of the Censor Board, which has regional offices in Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Cuttack and Guwahati, besides the main office in Mumbai. They charge each applicant and can easily create another examining system for OTT content.
The courts were not asked to do the job, but merely direct the government to set up a mechanism. Don't know how that is not feasible!
Greed: Fringe benefit of stardom
There is a video post of a media interview of Ratna Pathak Shah on social media which is generating huge reactions. She narrates her observations on the behaviour of stars on flights.
According to her, a star would not even ask for his coffee. Instead, one of his aides would get it, open the lid for him. The star would take a sip and hand back the coffee to his aide. She finds this to be dangerous for a star to be behaving like a toddler and depending to this extent on others.
I don't know for sure but I don't think even the kings and princes behaved this way. And, to think that most of these film stars come from ordinary middle class or poor families. So what makes our film stars need so much pampering! Can't a star ask for coffee from the cabin crew and hold his own coffee?
Usually, the airlines use prudence and avoid discussing stars' misdemeanour, for these stars are here today gone tomorrow, but the airlines have billions of dollars worth of business to do. Yet, sometimes these matters do make headlines.
Take for instance the case of a drunk Kapil Sharma flinging a shoe at his co-artiste, Sunil Grower, while on an airplane! How are these guys any better than those who get drunk and urinate on co-passengers while flying?
Where did all this begin? Yes, stars got respect because they enjoyed a great following, and drew thousands to cinemas to watch their films. Because of them, not only the filmmakers but many others found employment.
Yes, a star was given his tea or coffee when asked for, but nobody held his cup for him. The star sat with the rest of the unit or withdrew to his makeup room for meals. He had one attendant who looked after his needs. That is about all.
What happens now? A star comes with a retinue that includes two or three attendants, a driver, a dietitian, a representative from the talent management company that manages his affairs, a couple of bodyguards, a physical trainer, etc, etc.
Is that all!? Not quite, a superstar, who presently has a score of flops to his credit, needed at least four vanity vans. You know, those air-conditioned, well-equipped vehicles boasting of a washroom, television set, bed, sofas, and so one. In this instance, one vanity was for the star's personal use and one was for his retinue; one served as his gym and one more for him to hold meetings in case he had guests or other producers visiting him!
Besides this one star, every other star worth his name follows the pattern to some extent -- one vanity van, or two, more or less.
A star's retinue members are paid for by the producer of a particular film. Which adds up to Rs 10 crore to his budget. Is any star worth it? The stars charge crores, but there is no end to their greed.
Now, there is this actress who made her debut in 2015. She was caught taking her cut from what her staffers were paid! How cheap is that! And, there are others like her but most don't get caught.
If only hese greedy stars knew that for quite some time, it is the cost of a film that fails it. Projects become top heavy.