Netflix released the censored version of Angry Indian Goddesses in May, a month after it released the uncensored version of the film in other countries, MediaNama has found. The version uploaded in India is the same one that was cleared for theatrical release by the Censor Board, even though its jurisdiction doesn’t extend to online platforms like Netflix. In fact, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has stated that it is not looking to censor online content, and that it’s not creating a framework that would allow it to go down that path. This happened the last time Angry Indian Goddesses was available online too. TVFPlay, The Viral Fever’s streaming service, also had a censored version of the film.
Netflix refused to comment on this story.
Update: The movie’s production company, Jungle Book Entertainment, told MediaNama that Netflix specifically requested the censored version of the film for the India release. Pan Nalin, the film’s director and one of Jungle Book’s heads said so on Twitter too.
“New law” or just cold feet?
Biswapati Sarkar, TVF Media Labs’s Executive Creative Director, said that this was because “There is a law that was passed recently.” He added, “Why would we otherwise unnecessarily censor a film?” It’s unclear what new law Sarkar was talking about. At that time, the Angry Indian Goddesses team told me that their “legal analysis” had determined that Angry Indian Goddesses would have to be censored. It’s possible that they were referring to a claim that the Censor Board made in the Punjab & Haryana High Court last year. The Board claimed that they would start to require “undertakings” from filmmakers promising that they would not upload parts of a censored film online.
A response to an RTI application recently filed by MediaNama revealed that this “undertaking” makes absolutely no mention of putting up censored portions of a film online. In fact, all the undertaking states is that the filmmaker has “surrendered” all the censored parts of a movie to the Censor Board, including the original master copies. Most films are edited digitally, and multiple copies of footage are stored and transferred at different times by film studios and their production vendors. Many movies are distributed abroad before they’re even taken to the Censor Board, as Angry Indian Goddesses was. Keeping this in mind, it’s difficult to see exactly how that undertaking is even possible to implement.
Besides, that announcement came after the film was released in India, which means that even if the undertaking system indeed restricted an Indian film’s ability to release uncensored online, Angry Indian Goddesses wouldn’t be affected, since it was already certified.
“We’ll see what Netflix comes up with”
Shortly after Netflix released Angry Indian Goddesses outside India, AIG’s producers announced that the India release had to be postponed by a month. When asked by MediaNama if Netflix would release the uncensored version in India, a spokesperson for the fillm’s production company, said that while the unedited version was released outside India, “concerning India, we are still waiting to see what Netflix finally comes up with.”
What was censored in Angry Indian Goddesses
While Angry Indian Goddesses’s producers seem intent on being cautious with Netflix and TVFPlay, they were less reticent about uploading a dramatic clip of what the Censor Board cut from the film on Facebook. Here it is:
Streaming services’ censorship in India
Censorship on Netflix seems to be more common among big budget studio films from India. Independent films like Placebo, Haraamkhor, Rang Rasiya, and Gandu were either rejected by the Censor Board or finally released with cuts. On Netflix, however, they released uncensored. However, films from larger producers, like Shahid, Udta Punjab, Ugly, and Kya Kool Hain Hum 3, were uploaded censored. It seems like Netflix is simply uploading whatever versions of a movie studios are giving them, and smaller studios seem more likely to give them the uncensored version of their films. This also means that movies made outside India are pretty much all uncensored, because they’re acquired from abroad. This also means that if Netflix acquires a censored version of an Indian film, the same version goes up on Netflix globally.
Apple and Google pioneered online self-censorship by streaming services online — Google’s Play Store and Apple’s iTunes Movies only provide the CBFC-censored versions of all films in India. That includes Hollywood movies.
Meanwhile, Hotstar does not censor Hollywood films, but it does censor some TV shows that are not behind its paywall, and follows an upload-what-we-get policy for Indian films, much like Netflix. It faced criticism last year when a television cut of the A-rated film Masaan was uploaded on the service, which they later clarified was the version given to them.
Meanwhile, Amazon Prime Video’s censorship strategy is unclear. When the service first came out, they censored all nudity and content that Indian viewers might be offended by, like a sequence in The Grand Tour featuring a car made out of a bovine skeleton. Now, they seem to be blurring male genitalia while allowing female nudity — references to cows are still on the chopping block, as a recent episode of American Gods released in India apparently showed. And they also have an “International Release” of the show available on the Indian catalogue, which is uncensored; they haven’t done this for any other title so far. It’s unclear if Amazon has any fixed policy when it comes to censoring its content. They have evaded queries by MediaNama on their censorship in the past.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Pan Nalin Pictures produced Angry Indian Goddesses. The film was produced by Jungle Book Entertainment, which Pan Nalin heads with producer Gaurav Dhingra.