Netflix launched Sacred Games a couple of weeks ago. While everyone was going gaga over the story, there was also this query – would Sacred Games have even reached the audiences if it were a film – there wasn’t even talk about whether it could, as a TV series.
When it comes to cuss words, there are two mentalities in India. One of them laughs when a character in a film says that men don’t cry because they abuse. The other is the CBFC, which lives in a Utopian world where Indian lives without hearing any abuse. Therefore, even family friendly fare gets their dialogues cut. Marvel gets their ‘screwed’ word censored.
The debate about using cuss words in entertainment is difficult. Auteur film makers say that their films are individual and like-minded experiences and should be as raw as they can be. The economics of film making says film viewing is still a social, family experience and should be sanctified of all realities. The middle ground, therefore is the censorship rating – U for everyone, A is for the adults and U/A is the actual middle ground.
This, for want of a simpler term, is a hassle. Film makers do not want to be bogged down with red tape and censor meetings once they have shot the project – and that is one of the reasons why they now turn to Netflix, Amazon or the other homegrown streaming platforms.
That’s not the only reason though. Films is big money. Investors are as willing to get back their investments by the producers mortgaging their house once a film tanks, as they are to pump in crores in a film when it first starts out. Industry veterans will tell you that the actual work of making a film starts after you have shot it. It is then that you meet distributors, exhibitors, and the vast, conservative wireframe that decides whether your film will reach the audiences or not.
When we say this wireframe is conservative, we mean it. This is the clump of people who’ll sit with you and decide whether that story track will be controversial, whether this character will be liked by the audience, whether the audience wants a film on this concept. That process is as confusing as it’s embarrassing.
Writers spend months speaking to producers about concepts, storylines and screenplays that they have written – only to have the producer sit down and nit-pick at everything and eventual send the writers back to the writing board. And just a month later, that same producer shares a poster of the most insipid, illogical and brain-dead film as their own. It takes a while for the writer to understand what the difference between was the well thought out script that they narrated and the hare-brained monstrosity that the producer invested in – stars.
It is this way of the world that young and talented directors are now steering away from. They are now flipping the bird to this wireframe and going to the streaming platforms. One of the other reasons is that there’s little or no censorship on these platforms. Amazon Prime self-censors, but it’s all a far cry away from something like Udta Punjab happening on the streaming platforms. Netflix still has everything intact and there’s very little censorship.
Compare the investing process of making a film to the investing process of making a web series. The show creator talks to one of the streaming platforms – which are hungry for content anyway – if they like the product, they commission in. that’s it, udan-choo, the series is a reality.
So, streaming platforms are becoming the next big thing for genius film-makers. Anurag Kashyap, Karan Johar, Vikramaditya Motwane, Jackie Shroff, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, Kalki Koechlin these are just the forebearers of this trend.
What lies next, is what lies next.