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Exclusive: In a first, Netflix censors Hollywood film in India, cuts Kashmir from Mission Impossible: Fallout

You’re reading it here first: Netflix has censored a Hollywood film in India, removing mentions and maps of Kashmir from Mission Impossible: Fallout. This is a first for the platform in India. While this is the version of the film that was released in theatres in India, it’s noteworthy that Netflix took an unusual step of releasing this censored version online, on its platform, as well.

This is something it has not done for any other Mission Impossible film.

In a statement to MediaNama, Netflix said, “This is a licensed title. We are showing the version that was released in India in 2018.”

Netflix refused to say if they would have streamed the original version of the film if they were able to. Netflix has never been reported to release theatrically censored versions of Hollywood films, though they have done so sometimes for Indian titles, like Udta Punjab and Angry Indian Goddesses. Mission Impossible: Fallout was originally slated to appear on Netflix in India on June 10, but mysteriously vanished from the “Coming Soon” section of Netflix’s schedule on the app, and ended up releasing on Friday.

Amazon Prime Video had the film censored this way too, but they have always excised titles from content that might upset Indian viewers, like an episode of The Grand Tour that featured cow bones on a car, or an episode of Madam Secretary that featured a Hindu terrorist attack. They even censored several Hollywood films in India on launch.

Scenes that Netflix Cut

  • In the beginning of the film, Netflix cut out a snippet where a pre-taped briefing discusses a fictitious smallpox outbreak in “Indian-controlled Kashmir”
  • The entire climax takes place in Kashmir, but the version on Netflix India skips the map introducing the location. The Indian government disputes the version of Kashmir’s borders depicted in both instances.

On a related note, Coronavirus: Explained, a Netflix show, used the Indian version of Kashmir’s borders in a recent episode, highly unusual for a non-Indian production. Pieced together with Netflix’s warning to Hasan Minhaj to not use a non-Indian-approved Kashmir map on his show, it is clear that this issue is just touchy enough for Netflix to avoid offending Indian users (and the government) to the extent of censoring its content, something it doesn’t do very often. This year, Netflix also edited its own original show Street Food: Asia to remove a version of the Indian map with disputed Kashmir borders.

Streaming service censorship in India

  • Earlier this month, we reported on how Vikings was censored on Netflix in India, even as other countries got an uncensored cut. Netflix did not upload the uncensored version of that show because it wanted to retain the Hindi dubbing, which was prepared only for the censored version that earlier broadcast on Indian TV.
  • This month, ALT Balaji and ZEE5 censored a show featuring a soldier’s wife cheating on him after viewers directed their outrage at the show’s producer Ekta Kapoor.
  • In February, Hotstar chose not to upload an episode of the show that focused on India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Hotstar refused to comment on why they did that, but they did upload a subsequent episode of the show, where Oliver discusses Hotstar’s censorship of Last Week Tonight over the years.
  • Netflix censored Angry Indian Goddesses in India in 2017, going so far as to request a censored version of the film from producers — the streaming service had released the film uncensored outside India. The company later reversed its decision, releasing the film uncensored in India.
  • Last November, Amazon Prime Video removed an episode which depicted Hindu terrorism from Madam Secretary, per Gadgets 360. Voot, which also had the rights to that show, did not remove the episode.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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