(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
I once heard Salman Rushdie say: “I might be indifferent to religion but if it acts as a balm to billions, who am I to quarrel with.” This is a perfect position for both atheists and non-atheists; believers and non-believers. devotees and rational. If you can’t help or console humanity, a majority of whom are without power or hope, the last thing you ought to do is to hurt the faith which allows them to live by.
The only set who wouldn’t agree to this position are artistes. They are a different breed. They argue, they question, they debate and we all feel it’s for our advancement. There is no harm if dogmas are revisited. A faith reformed is a faith purified. It’s rationality. The problem occurs when your are not out to cleanse the faith. It’s to use your art to abuse the faith. Messenger, instead of message, becomes your target.
Unfortunately, it pays. More in the case against the Hindus than say Muslims or Christians. If you take liberty against Muslims and their faith—dare even sketch a portrait of Prophet Muhammad—it’s unlikely you would see the next day. The retribution is swift. Charlie Hebdo isn’t the sole instance. But against the Hindus—you could slap at their Hanuman; call a “kutiya” (bitch) a Savitri; term “Chitrakoot” as “Paatal Lok”; show them genocidal—and its’ artistic license. Worse, it ensures raving reviews and 10-serial contract with the new beasts in town: The Over The Top (OTT) platforms.
The OTT platforms are your Netflix and Amazon; Voot and Hotstar etc. The stream straight into your living rooms. There is no censorship. It doesn’t come under the CBFC (Central Board of Film Certiication) or the Cinematograph Act of 1952. Profanity passes off as gritty dialogues; sex scenes are watched together by both father and daughter, one skirting his eyes, the other holding her breath; a young kid bemused why the “uncle” on the screen finds a young boy in his mirror-image so tempting.
This is my third piece on the matter. One was on Leila, last year, a futuristic tale of Hindus in ethnic cleansing. The second was Paatal Lok which filled me with disgust. Now it’s on Chippa where an old man is narrating how his grandma once slapped “Hanuman” and the latter “sar jhukai. dum dabai, ae bhaaga (bowing his head, tail between his legs, he scampered for safety). All three have been streamed on Netflix in rapid succession.
Twitteratis this morning were outraged at Chippa. Predictably, excuses came up: “Langaurs in Bengal are called Hanumans”; or “A specie of monkeys in India is called Hanuman.” Rebuttals came that “if so, why a man is seen kicking a kid while reading Hanuman Chalisa in Chippa;” or “If true in Bengal; why use this truism for rest of India?” Surely, two million Hindus of Bengal isn’t the same thing as 1000 million other Hindus in rest of India.
It’s easy to understand the motive. Such artistic liberties secure a platform, ensure good reviews and probably a 10-series contract from an OTT outlet. Guaranteed profits. Secured careers. Unlike Muslims, Hindus are unlikely to walk into the Mumbai office of Netflix and spray bullets. Their impotent outrage on the social media—for no mainstream media gives a hoot to Hindu sensibilities—actually drives up the viewership. India’s OTT market would be worth $5 billion in 2023, as per Boston Consulting Group. Netflix has reported a 30% hike in their viewership during these pandemic months. Be pretty sure also they are not taxed either by the Indian government.
Not that Information and Broadcasting ( I & B) ministry hasn’t stirred. Just before lockdowns, a notice had gone to these OTT platforms in March to standardize their code of conduct and set up an adjudicatory body. China, France, Singapore all enforce it. However, in a meeting which the minister Prakash Javadekar summoned in his office, to abide by the rules of the Digital Content Complaint Council (DCCC), predictably, Amazon Prime refused. Netflix asked for extra weeks to firm up their mind. Others, such as Hotstar, Voot etc have come on board.
The OTTs hiding behind censorship is a joke. It can’t overrule what the courts in India find outrageous in light of the Constitution. You can’t be promoting religious violence or show barely-concealed pornography in the name of artistic licence. And if you could, dare and do it against Islam. You know as well as I do, you won’t. Between money or a hole-in-the-chest, the choice is not too difficult.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
This was Friday. Hostages, a web-series thriller on Hotstar, is disrupting my home. I keep running to the door whenever the bell is pressed because my wife is glued to the screen, watching one after another of the eight-episode series of five hours. “What if in the end you are told it was only a dream of the protagonist and nothing of the sort happened. What if she wakes up in a sweat and says, sorry guys and gals, it was just a dream,” I blurted to my wife at the end of my patience.
“What if” in entertainment is the password for $100 million business. A viewer is hooked: “What if” the villain succeeds; “What if” the girl chooses her boyfriend over her husband; “What if” the panchayat forces the girl to marry her rapist; “What If” our hero is unable to save his family as tsunami hits his town.
Rarely are we disappointed with outcome. The end never betrays our expectations: Girl does remain with her husband; the villain never succeeds, rapist meets justice and our hero miraculously survives tsunami with his family. Even though movies are predictable, we spend money and hours and watch it again and again.
Politics in a way is also entertainment. More so in the Season of Polls. Politicians and Media are like its’ producers and script-writers. Events are created, star-cast assembled, emotions are heightened and the suckers again are the consumers—in this case readers and TV watchers.
Star-cast choose themselves on their own. With Rafale issue on the edge, and The Hindu turbo-charged by god knows who, country was on the edge. Heroes are villains and villains are heroes. Those for Modi know he is clean. Those not for Modi know he is corrupt. How the end would play out in Supreme Court? On its judgment—“What if”– rests the fate of 2019 General Elections.
Rafale, The Hindu, Supreme Court,
Then comes the sexual assault charge against the Chief Justice of India. Again hero is villain and villain is hero. Those for Gogoi, know it’s fabricated. Those against Gogoi, know he is framed. The country is hooked: “What if” the CJI’s office is deactivated? Won’t it affect Rafale?
For years, the matter of Rahul Gandhi’s citizenship issue is in public domain. “What if” he indeed was a British citizen? The matter acquired political tones when Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) sought an official explanation from the Gandhi scion. He was given a fortnight to reply—months have passed on since then. The nation again had its heroes and villains: but it was a joke.
Or Sadhvi Pragya. She utters words in praise for Nathuram Godse. The secular forces give a lesson in ferocity to Islamic State (IS): To hell with her. Bury her. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visibly hurt on national television. “I would never be able to forgive her,” says the anguished Prime Minister. The party seeks an explanation from the firebrand leader. Heroes and villains play out again.
Nathuram Godse, Islamic State, Mediation, Ayodhya, Ram Mandir, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Balakot,
I am sure you haven’t forgotten the “mediation” team on Ayodhya. Would this team be able to succeed or thwart the attempt on Ram Mandir? Media and secular forces see one of the mediators, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar , as potentially dangerous. Those in favour of Ram Mandir see hope in him. Again, cardboards of heroes and villains are cut.
Think about 100s of scientists and cinestars coming out in support of one or other political ideology; the debate on whether 300 terrorists were killed in Balakot or not; whether Supreme Court would favourably rule on the re-petition on Sabrimala – all had the nation divided in its heroes and villains. Pure entertainment, wasnt it.
Now the elections are over. Why bother if Rafale was corruption or not; if Rahul Gandhi has replied on his British citizenship issue or not; if Sadhvi Pragya has explained satisfactorily to the letter served on her. Ayodhya can wait till 2024. Sabrimala? On the backburner till 2024.
I tell this all to emphasize what the sucker they make us out to be. All this looks so stage-managed. Outrage. Anger. Despair. Democracy in danger. The secular fabric of India torn to shreds. Elections over, everything over. Wait till the next elections. Again, the recorded events are played out.
So relax. Make friends and not enemies for that’s exactly what politicians and media want us to be: at each other’s throat. Have a laugh on the concocted issues. They mean nothing to them so why lose your sleep? Wait till the bugle of Delhi assembly elections start blowing in February next year. A few seasonal new issues would emerge and fade with the same monotony. Democracy you said? I call it entertainment. Okay, black entertainment.