Walk out of your home and catch an autorickshaw to the nearest station. Chances are that you will hear at least 4 cuss-words on your way. There are also chances that cussing has become mainstream in your house. The normalisation of cussing while speaking is another pop-culture phenomenon, but that is another article for another day. What we are discussing is how the CBFC considers this as a yardstick for allowing or not allowing the public broadcast of films and tv serials.
Censorship of public broadcast has riled audiences and content creators since a long, long time. And the horror stories of censorship aren’t just in India. No, censorship has been the devil for the film industry, the comics industry, the novels industry and many more. Films made news when the first commode was shown. That film is Psycho, and the year was 1960. There’s a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to the first interracial kiss on television – yes, these things were that big back in the ‘60s. Since then, America has changed.
Indian media has a unique problem. A country that gives weightage for ‘hurting religious sentiments’ opens a Pandora’s Box of what can hurt and disrespect and what doesn’t – the latter being a sad, stingy minority. Insiders will tell you that getting a film released is a race against time. And producers don’t have the time to sit around and talk about that scene and this scene. They just chop it off – continuity and user experience be damned.
Film buffs and casual audiences will tell you how they feel looted when an angry cuss gets bleeped – taking audiences away from the moment. It won’t be long when the collective audience offers the bleeped word in a reaction to the bleeping of the word.
User experience of watching Hollywood films in India has been ridiculed and you will find many younger audiences not watching a film on the big screen because they want the uncensored version. The blame lies on the censor board – because there’s no surgical precision while chopping off scenes. Nowadays, watching a Hollywood film in the theatre in India sometimes is a ‘spot the cut’ exercise.
The problem is dual though. For Indian audiences, watching films is a family and social exercise. Adolescents shoot questioning gazes to their parents when there’s an intimate smooching scene blaring on the screen – with the sound in Dolby Atmos.
Amazon Prime India is facing flak – and rightly so. For all it does, it seems that Amazon wants to become the new normal – like television – and is censoring things right, left and centre. Yes, it came out with Mirzapur, which has been criticised for its gory scenes and cuss words – but Alexa censors ‘chhod’ from the song ‘Abhi Na Jaao Chhod Ke’, so it’s currently playing Dr. Jekyll and who’s Mr. Hyde.
Also Read | Amazon Prime original Mirzapur, Review
Netflix surprisingly became overactive and took out a press release announcing that they are not looking at censoring their content for audiences. Their recent original film, CAM, was about a cam girl who loses her identity. It showed all that one would expect, and even if Netflix did censor something – the narrative and the continuity didn’t suffer.
Also Read | Netflix Original CAM Review
If, and when censors become proactive on streaming, audiences will still have an option to watch uncensored content – we know what that option is – and that isn’t going anywhere.
The streaming platforms in India are at a nascent stage in India. They have created a name for themselves and a closed audience. But with censorship, it stands to do the same thing that theaters did a couple of years ago – lose the plot.