Paatal Lok upsets Gorkha community, Hasmukh offended lawyers: Do web shows need to be more cautious?
With more and more web series releasing every other week, the focus has now shifted from films to movies. Do filmmakers and storytellers now need to be more cautious?
If there is one space that has something new to look forward to every other week, it is the digital streaming platforms. Streaming giants such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar and Zee5 among others have upped their game and have been releasing binge-worthy content ever since the country went into a state of lockdown. The latest web series on the block that has taken the Internet by storm is Anushka Sharma backed Paatal Lok which began streaming last week on Amazon prime video. While the show has opened to great reviews and terrific response from the critics, Paatal Lok seems to have upset the Nepali speaking Gorkha community.
If you're in the dark, let us tell you an online petition has surfaced asking Paatal Lok makers to mute and blur a subtitle that offends the Gorkha community. Not just that, a legal notice has also been served to the show's producers by the Lawyers Guild. The petition reveals that one of the lead character's name is Mary Lyngdoh which is a common surname of the Khasi community from Meghalaya. Not just that, in the first episode she is addressed as a Nepali w***e by the policewoman which has hurt sentiments of the community. The community has now demanded an apology for the use of the offensive slur. Moreover, it wants makers to also edit the episode and replace it without the slur.
In recent times, the Nepali community has also faced racism due to the stereotypes associated with the coronavirus pandemic. Citing this, the petition highlights that Paatal Lok's scene is rather problematic. Just last month, Netflix had released a dark comedy series titled Hasmukh starring Vir Das in the lead role. The show, written by the comedian himself along with a few others, was dragged to the Delhi High Court.
For the unversed, few advocates had filed a plea calling for deletion of some parts in Hasmukh as it showed the legal fraternity in a bad light. The plea claimed that Vir Das' show defamed the reputation of lawyers. However, the Delhi HC dismissed it and allowed the show to continue streaming on Netflix. Vir Das also took to Instagram and thanked the Delhi HC for its decision.
He wrote, "Yesterday in the Delhi High Court, in the middle of the pandemic, there was a hearing. A hearing about my show where a fictitious comedian does jokes about a fictitious lawyer. Close to 10 legal notices, a suit for ‘defaming the reputation of lawyers’, political pages organising to down-vote it on IMDb. Fair game. As artists we were taught to accept feedback humbly, and I do so, knowing that my work always has, and will polarise people. But since these actions go a little beyond feedback, I hope I’ve earned the right to respectfully respond. I have spent a decade of my life trying to make this country laugh. I certainly haven’t always succeeded, but I have heard enough laughter and seen enough happy people to know, that comedy of all genre, does more good than harm. Offence is taken, not given. I humbly thank the High Court for their support."
With more and more web series releasing every other week, the focus has now shifted from films to movies. In India, for feature films there is a censor board in place. However, the same rule does not apply for streaming giants who have so far been practicing self-censorship.
While on one hand is a writer and director's artistic freedom at stake, on the other hand are millions of viewers. India, as a nation, is not too tolerable and there have been plenty of examples in the past when a certain political or religious group gets offended too easily. Point in case, the advocates. So where should the line ideally be drawn?
To quote part of the Delhi HC order for Hasmukh, it reads, "The very essence of democracy is that a creative artist is given the liberty to project the picture of the society in a manner he perceives."
Do filmmakers and storytellers need to be more cautious? Does India's streaming platforms also need a censor board? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Journalist. Perennially hungry for entertainment. Carefully listens to everything that start with "so, last night...". Currently making web more...