On-demand video streaming platforms are exercising caution and discretion following the controversies involving web series Mirzapur 2 and Tandav, and the recent guidelines to regulate OTT platforms notified by the information and broadcasting ministry, and the Supreme Court reprimanding the makers of Tandav,
Spy thriller The Family Man and the upcoming season of crime series Paatal Lok on Amazon Prime Video have been cancelled in view of the recent guidelines notified by the information and broadcasting ministry to regulate over-the-top (OTT) platforms and the reprimand by the Supreme Court of the makers of Tandav, said two people aware of the development, seeking anonymity.
Amazon, for now, also stalled a show by filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj based on the Kandahar hijack, while the release of Disney+Hotstar’s Kamathipura based on the red-light district in Mumbai for International Women’s Day has been postponed indefinitely.
Hotstar did not respond to Mint’s queries, nor did Bharadwaj and the makers of The Family Man. An Amazon Prime Video spokesperson said “The Family Man Season 2, as previously announced, is returning to the service in the summer of 2021" without commenting on the other two shows.
Anushka Sharma’s Clean Slate Films, the producers of Paatal Lok, declined to comment saying the prerogative to make any official comment on the web series lies with Amazon. “All platforms are asking creators to be extremely cautious at the moment and basically avoid depicting (social and political) realities," said one of the two people cited above, who is a filmmaker working on a web show. These are companies running businesses and they cannot afford to have one product lead to the demise of the broader entity, he said.
Eventually, The Family Man and Paatal Lok is only a small pie of Amazon’s overall operations in India. Most content producers worked with legal firms to identify problematic aspects of content for about three years, but they are now going through scripts with a toothcomb.
Most streaming platforms, including ZEE5, ALTBalaji and MX Player, Mint reached out declined to comment on the new rules and their impact on content generation.
However, Monika Shergill, vice president, content, Netflix, said the goal of the government and the industry is to do the best for consumers and creators. “We’re analysing the guidelines right now and have always believed in being more responsible to viewers and the society at large," Shergill said.
Topics such as sex and nudity may have been mentioned in the guidelines but they have been restricted to older audiences as part of specific age classifications, the filmmaker cited above said.
A senior executive at a streaming platform, on condition of anonymity, said age classifications were already suggested by the IAMAI (Internet and Mobile Association of India) so there were no surprises there. “Challenges arise from the fact that a lot of OTT platforms are ad-supported or free, so there will need to be developed a strong system of age verification. Also, parental locks, if desired, will have to be imposed on every single episode of a particular series, making for a cumbersome process," the person said.
Platforms like theirs, work with the principle that while it is ideal to err on the side of caution, in a free society, all kinds of content should be allowed as long as it comes with safeguards like age classification.
Siddharth Anand Kumar, vice-president, films and television, Saregama India that owns boutique studio Yoodlee Films and has backed movies like Axone and Chaman Bahar on Netflix, said creators will have to be a lot more cautious in their choice of subject matter and statements now given that anybody with mal-intentions can file a complaint, warranting redressal.
“If you had a censor board (like with films), there would be a way to defend films that have passed and the onus would shift from the makers. This has created a situation of ‘what if’ where creators would be a lot more conservative given that you don’t know what agendas people could come up with," Kumar said, adding that the other big issue is the anonymity that the web affords where it is virtually impossible to track the age of viewers, as of now.
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