OTT platforms, a new addition to the media, have become competitors to cinema and television programmes, raising a few uncomfortable questions. Does OTT concern discerning viewers? Is the tasteless and obscene content on OTT platforms a result of the absence of Censor Board? Is this the beginning of a dangerous practice for society and culture? Journalist and author Anant Vijay seeks answers to these questions through his Hindi book Over the Top: OTT Ka Mayajaal. This is his latest book and probably the first Indian book on OTT. Anant Vijay, a national award-winning film critic, journalist, literary critic, and political analyst, reveals all these identities through this book. The writing style reflects more of his journalistic mentality than that of a writer, making the book easy to read, even for non-Hindi-speaking readers familiar with Hindi.
OTT is a platform primarily for movies and similar contents. This book mainly discusses programmes aired in Hindi. During the pandemic, cinemas were closed, people were under house arrest and television became the sole means of entertainment for cinema lovers. At the same time, OTT platforms became well-established in the minds of the audience, and OTT Directors started planning to provide the audience with a new taste. OTT had old popular movies replaced by new ones, especially those that failed in theatres. At one point, cinemas opened, but due to the limited audience and the popularity of OTT, new Hindi films were released on this platform. Filmmaking for OTT started, and web series in the style of a TV series also began.
Most web series used elements like obscene abuse, violent scenes and explicit sexual content to attract a larger audience. While Censor Boards of Film Certification monitors such scenes, many producers took unimaginable liberties due to the lack of controls for OTT, resulting in chaos in the world of creation.
Directors like Anurag Kashyap are notably aggressive, using verbal abuse to grab the audience’s attention. The unhindered and uncontrolled environment of OTT platforms is reflected in his encouragement in the series Sacred Games. Anant Vijay rightly comments, ‘When there is no bondage and no need to apologise, freedom turns into anarchy.’ He also wrote, ‘In fact, such people use abuse, violence, and sexual scenes to cover up their incompetence.’
Not only movies or series have been created for the OTT platform with sexually violent elements, but also series with wholesome entertainment and reality. The author balances the subject with detailed discussions of several such series and maintains his responsibilities as an author.
In Bharat, the relationship between art and politics has been judged in a one-sided manner. This book has broken down that wall of limitations. This is the real power of the book
Author Anant Vijay carefully observes and explains the clever construction of a ‘fake narrative’ through OTT programmes. The same narrative of anti-Hindu and Muslim praise created in Hindi films is seen differently in OTT. Agendas and promotion tactics, under the guise of entertainment, are controlled by the brains of political power. It involves either the political beliefs or profit motives of the creator or the goal of obtaining the blessings of an influential force. When analysing the present from a political perspective, two things are needed – political knowledge of the past and the ability to predict the future in the light of it. The author rightly considers the political background while discussing the web series Leila by the once-famous filmmaker Deepa Mehta. “Art was turned into a rehearsal ground for politics. This was done after the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections. There are many reasons. A terrible image was created and promoted by portraying the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and some similar organisations as extremely radical.” It can be assumed that a part of that agenda was Deepa Mehta’s Leila. Although Leila is told as a fictional story, it combines the grim future it depicts with the image of the agenda promoted around the Sangh. Anant Vijay has informatively analysed many other such agendas. The web series Jubilee also beautifully describes how the Russian Communist Party used Indian films as part of their agenda. The author also refers to Dev Ananda’s autobiography Romancing with Life in support of this.
Overall, this book analyses both the artistic work and the process of agenda-building through the latest entertainment medium in depth and is able to provide the reader with thought. In Bharat, the relationship between art and politics has been judged in a one-sided manner. This book has broken down that wall of limitations. This is the real power of the book.
Published by Prabhat Prakashan, the book must be translated into regional languages. It is worth mentioning that the author has dedicated the book to Kamakhya Temple.