Amazon Prime Video Tells Us Why It’s Censoring Content in India
Amazon Prime Video arrives in India with a bang.
Amazon Prime Video arrives in India with a bang.

Amazon Prime Video Tells Us Why It’s Censoring Content in India

Amazon Prime Video is now playing in India and though the over-the-top (OTT) video streaming service has arrived almost a year after Netflix launched here, the e-commerce giant is making sure it won’t be ignored because:

  • Amazon Prime Video India has an introductory fee of just Rs 499 per year (wow!)
  • Amazon Prime Video is seriously investing in original Indian content

Amazon has on offer a varied choice of shows, movies, documentaries, and cartoons for the Indian viewer - so you can catch anything between Jeremy Clarkson’s The Grand Tour or an episode of ACP Pradyuman’s CID if you want.

Value For Money

For the standard Netflix account, which allows you to video stream HD quality content, you currently have to shell out Rs 650 per month. Compare that with the Rs 499 per year offer by Amazon Prime India - which makes it just about Rs 40 per month! Hotstar currently has just one price bracket and that’s Rs 199 per month.

Original Indian Content

While Netflix has only announced one desi series so far - the screen version of Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games, to be produced by Phantom Films - the list of original Indian shows that are being created for Amazon include:

  • 3 shows - Powerplay, Mirzapur and Made In Heaven by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani’s Excel Entertainment
  • 2 shows - Stardust and Vishpuri by Anurag Kashyap and his team at Phantom
  • All India Bakchod’s (AIB) foray into fiction with a political satire called The Ministry

Others shows in the pipeline come attached with names like Ram Madhvani (director of Neerja), filmmakers DK Krishna and Raj Nidimoru apart from a series titled Breathe featuring R Madhvan and Amit Sadh.

But that’s just the tip of Amazon’s content iceberg, there’s a lot of more indigenous content in the works being produced by the likes of Sujoy Ghosh, Anushka Sharma, Raj Kumar Gupta and Asif Kapadia besides others.

The original Indian series on the platform will include diverse genres such as drama, comedy, psychological thriller, biopics, period/action, mythological/fantasy, sports drama and political satire, promise the guys at Amazon.

Amazon Is Being Sanskaari

But on the flip side, Amazon has strangely taken the self-censorship route while stepping into the Indian market so as to not ruffle any sanskaari feathers. So unlike Netflix and Hotstar, frontal nudity is blurred on Amazon Prime Video for India.

And it’s not just the nudity, sentiments around the holy cow have been taken into consideration too. In a column reviewing the shows on Amazon, writer Raja Sen notes:

The most unnerving example of self-curtailed content I found was on their humongous new car show, The Grand Tour. On the fourth episode of the series, Jeremy Clarkson drives a car made of animal carcasses, looking through a windshield made of a cow’s innards. The hour long episode has, absurdly enough, been shortened to half its length and there is no meat-car in sight.
Raja Sen (livemint.com)

On being asked the reason for their ‘adarsh balak’ kinda policy, here’s what Amazon had to say:

We respect our customers’ preferences and will comply with the regulations applicable to our service. Amazon is a responsible company and we are here to entertain the Indian customer with award-winning content from the US along with blockbusters from Indian and regional makers.  We will keep Indian cultural sensitivities in mind while offering this content to customers.
Spokesperson, Amazon Prime Video

Would the current self-censorship just be Amazon’s way of finding a non-controversial way to settle into the Indian market? A policy they will hopefully do away with, or like McDonalds are they going to keep the beef out of their burgers while in India?

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