Paatal Lok brings hellfire on OTT platforms; reignites the debate on the regulation of content

#BoycottPaatalLok has been trending on social media, accusing the series of showing Hindus in a bad light

With #BoycottPaatalLok netizens are once again urging the government to step in and censor OTT content.
With #BoycottPaatalLok netizens are once again urging the government to step in and censor OTT content.

The newly released web-series Paatal Lok on Amazon Prime has managed to get both eyeballs besides positive and negative reviews. In fact, filmmaker Anurag Kashyap on Twitter declared the web-series as “The best crime thriller to come out of the nation.” Produced by actor Anushka Sharma’s Clean Slate Films the web-series has found its share of criticism on social media platforms with netizens accusing it of portraying and encouraging ‘Hinduphobic’ content. According to Raj Nayak, founder and managing director, House of Cheers, one should not read too much into the situation. “There are people who like their two minutes of fame and want to create some controversy. The same thing happened with the film Padmavat. These are diversions and as a country, we should now only be focussed in addressing the pandemic and the economy. We shouldn’t be wasting our time on frivolous issues and definitely not infringe in the creative freedom of producers,” he added.

Earlier BJP MLA Nandkishor Gurjar had filed an FIR against Anushka Sharma on grounds of sedition and urged her husband Virat Kohli to divorce her for producing such content. The Bharatiya Gorkha Yuva Parisangh, the youth wing of Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh had also objected to the racist slurs and racist stereotyping of Northeast people, in particular the Gorkhas. Not to be left behind, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee had also expressed discontent at a scene where a Sikh man was shown raping a woman while another Sikh man watches in despair. On Twitter, he tagged Union Minister Prakash Javedkar and urged him to take strong action against the series for showing Sikhs as rapists.

However, this is not the first time that an Indian web-series has drawn ire for demeaning Hindu culture. Last year, a member of the Shiv Sena IT Cell had filed a police complaint against Netflix alleging that the US-based online streaming service is “defaming Hindus and India” through shows hosted on its platform. This took place after a slew of Indian web-series such as Sacred Games, Leila and Ghoul were released on the platform. Post this, Amazon Prime’s The Family Man starring Manoj Bajpayee also faced flak by The Panchajanya, a publication affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), for establishing a narrative which created sympathy for terrorists. Even ZEE5’s Code M failed to escape the thrashing and was accused of showing the Indian Army indulging in nepotism, castism, corruption, murders and fake encounters targetting a particular community. “OTT is meant to be a niche platform as opposed to any mass media of any kind, allowing it to accept standards which are different from mass media. However, when OTT becomes as popular as mass media does, then it needs to be more responsible and need to look at self-censorship,” Harish Bijoor, brand expert, stated.

With #BoycottPaatalLok netizens are once again urging the government to step in and censor OTT content, but this time not because of nudity and expletives, but because of showing content which spreads ‘Hinduphobia’. Lloyd Mathias, investor and business strategist, believes that creative professions must be allowed their freedom within the limits of the law. “To use sections of the serials to target the web-series and attribute motives to them is the work of misguided elements. If one finds a serial not in consonance with one’s beliefs, they are welcome to skip it.  To ask for a ban is unfairly assuming a moral authority over others,” he said.

Currently, the video streaming industry follows is self-regulated when it comes to content. On February 5, 2020, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) launched the ‘Code for Self-Regulation of Online Curated Content Providers’. The code was backed by platforms such as Hotstar, Voot, Jio and SonyLiv.

Read Also: Coronavirus Impact: As viewers take to TV, it is the afternoon time band which gets the money and eyeballs

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First published on: 28-05-2020 at 15:29 IST