Pranav Gour| Ground Report
I binge watched the trending Amazon original TV ‘Paatal Lok’ this week. Not because I really needed some good crime thriller, but because I didn’t want to miss out on something every youngster is doing in India. In my opinion, it checks every point on worth-watching-international-TV checklist (if there’s one); It has an interesting story line, gripping narration and some of the most disturbing scenes I have seen since the birth of streaming platforms.
To be clear, this is not a review blog; infact, it addresses a bigger issue of censorship in web based entertainment. Paatal Lok is an 18+ TV series and it surpass every other censured movie in terms of violence and it surpass by far. Some scenes in the show are filled with blood and gore (reference to hattora tyagi breaking 3 skulls with a hammer). I understand the artistic requirement of character development by means of visual impacts. Some characters are well built and the balance too is well established for negative characters. Some parts of the storytelling are specially scripted for so called villains of the show- real intent always being to project the circumstantial birth of a criminal- without prejudice. Although it was a necessity to build characters for a rich script, I could not disagree more that parts of the character build-up were more explicit than implied, which might be a good thing for violence hungry Indian audiance but not so good for fine tuning the taste for TV art.
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This calles for a machinery for censorship of media on streaming platforms. The show is filled with instances of caste based discrimination and Islamophobia. It also portraits UP, the setting of the show, in a bad light. Readers may choose to disagree on this but the show amplifies some long drawn preconceptions. The show is absolutely uncut and if it were to present before a censure board, a third of the roll would have been sacrificed to reach a PG rating. I can tell this much.
Crime thriller is the new international favourite. It’s like people were starving to see some murders and assault and battery. I see it this way- good thriller gives us pleasure because it helps us feel as closely as it can be to being outlaw ourselves without leaving the comfort of our homes. Pataal Lok has done a great job by this theory, the characters makes you think empathetically of them, even if it’s for a short while. As for the TV shows, the mystery associated and our quest for demystification make us binge watch. I remember the days when movies were banned in India for their inappropriate titles. Cinema always had that power to hurt sentiments, subjectively speaking. Also, censorship has motives higher than changing names and inserting b*#@s. Now in the absence of regulatory and certifying authority, content on streaming platforms will continue to affect us subconsciously and I am skeptical that it has potential to damage our cultural fabric, sometime in the future, if not immediately.