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No films on India far-right divide | The Express Tribune

In the vibrant landscape of India’s streaming industry, a chilling narrative has emerged—a narrative underscored by political pressure, self-censorship, and shelved projects that challenge societal norms. Recent revelations surrounding acclaimed filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee’s untold film highlight the stifling grip of political influence on streaming platforms, leaving creatives in the shadows of self-censorship.

Banerjee, known for his poignant storytelling, crafted a film delving into the poignant journey of generations in an Indian Muslim family, navigating the treacherous waters of bigotry. Completed and poised for release, the film faced an uncertain fate in the corridors of Netflix. Reports suggest that the streaming giant signaled Banerjee, hinting at a potentially more favorable release post a hypothetical shift in the political climate, indicating a toxic atmosphere that shackles artistic expression.

This revelation echoes a broader narrative that has cast a pall over India’s streaming domain. An environment of caution has crept in, reshaping the content landscape as streaming giants navigate political sensitivities. Anurag Kashyap’s shelved magnum opus, an adaptation of the book Maximum City, exploring themes of Hindu bigotry and the diverse spectrum of hope and despair in Mumbai, stands as a testament to this growing phenomenon.

The arrival of Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video in India once promised a revolution in the entertainment sphere. However, in the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) consolidating power, a palpable shift has occurred. A culture of self-censorship has seeped in, dictating content creation and challenging the freedom of expression cherished by the industry.

Activists aligned with Hindu nationalism sparked a pressure campaign in 2019, targeting content deemed as disrespectful to Hinduism and the nation. This crescendoed in 2021 when the scrutiny reached a fever pitch, leading to investigations into streaming platforms over perceived religious and political insensitivity. The fallout forced streaming executives to reevaluate projects, often bowing to avoid repeating past controversies.

In this landscape, Banerjee’s sidelined film mirrors a broader pattern. Netflix and Prime Video have reportedly declined or abandoned projects addressing India’s political, religious, or caste divisions. The shelving of Gormint, a satirical political series, and the relinquishment of rights for “ndi (r) a’s Emergency, a documentary echoing veiled commentary on the current administration, underscore the nuanced challenges filmmakers face.

The restraint exercised by streaming giants speaks volumes about the encroachment of external pressures on artistic integrity, evoking concerns of invisible censorship that stymies storytelling. As the industry navigates these turbulent waters, the fate of Banerjee’s film stands as a stark reminder of the delicate balance between creative expression and the ever-looming specter of political influence.

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