Why is Amazon Prime Video blurring nudity and beeping profanity for India, without being asked?

After all, this is India, and here only the mob wins.

 |  4-minute read |   17-12-2016
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Thanks to the overtly sanskaari information and broadcasting ministry (I&B) and the scissor-friendly CBFC, web content in India has received the much-needed boost it now has. Of course, as the AIB Roast demonstrated, even online content, that are well within the guidelines of the platform can get you into trouble. But that should not encourage creators or the platform to censor stuff out.

In fact, when it comes to platforms such as Netflix and Hotstar, where you have to pay a premium subscription fee to view content, isn’t it imperative that content should not put under the blade at all? After all people are paying for that privilege, and it’s not something just anyone or everyone can see.

The newest player in the market, Amazon Prime Video, has for some weird reason gone into a self-sanskaari mode. Basically, content on Amazon Prime Video is censored to the point where it looks like Pahlaj Nihalani is the one making the decisions for the company.

According to an Amazon Prime spokesperson, “We respect our customers’ preferences and will comply with the regulations applicable to our service. Amazon is a responsible company and we are here to entertain the Indian customer with award-winning content from the US along with blockbusters from Indian and regional makers.  We will keep Indian cultural sensitivities in mind while offering this content to customers”. 

“Cultural sensitivities” is the keyword here. What does that even mean?

Is this fear that is making Amazon behave like a doormat? In June this year, Amazon faced a lot of criticism from its Indian users for selling doormats and other products with religious figures. People outraged against the retail giant for allowing the sale of items that depicted images of the Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Ganesha etc on doormats, or that thing you use to wipe your dirty feet.

Once bitten, twice shy?

Whatever is the reason, movies and mini-series now have nudity blurred out and profanities cut. According to film critic Raja Sen, these cuts have managed to render the content almost useless in some cases. In his Livemint column, Sen writes “The most unnerving example of self-curtailed content I found was on their humongous new car show, The Grand Tour. On the fourth episode of the series, Jeremy Clarkson drives a car made of animal carcasses, looking through a windshield made of a cow’s innards. The hour long episode has, absurdly enough, been shortened to half its length and there is no meat-car in sight”.

The fact is that Amazon Prime is playing safe to the point of not leaving the bench at all. According to a MediaNama article, The I&B ministry, in response to an RTI application, said that they weren’t looking to censor online content.

amazon-prime_121616094333.jpg Photo: TechRadar

In the RTI application filed by Aroon Deep, the ministry questioned about the reach of their powers on platforms like Hotstar and Netflix. In their response, the ministry said that they do not have the power to censor any content online, and that they are “not pursuing the creation of a regulatory framework” that would allow them to have any online censorship powers.

Neither Netflix, nor Hotstar censor their premium content and rightly so. Hotstar broadcasts Game of Thrones on their platform – one of the most popular R-rated shows in the world – without any cuts at all. If Game of Thrones (the mainstream accepted package of nudity, gore, violence and profanity), what is stopping Amazon Prime from not bending backwards to accommodate “cultural sensitivities”?

But in an age, when art galleries are ransacked and artists are assaulted for displaying nudity, what is to stop the culture brigade from picketing one of their offices. After all, this is India, and here only the mob wins.

Also read - Taliban India sees Hindu groups vandalise art gallery over nudity

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