Indian Army personnel | Representational image | ANI
Indian Army personnel | Representational image | ANI
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New Delhi: The recent controversy over the erotic show XXX on producer Ekta Kapoor’s streaming platform AltBalaji, where a scene was termed offensive to the Army, once again brought to light the regulatory grey area surrounding web series. 

The Ministry of Defence has since written to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), emphasising that any film or web series based on the Army (and, by extension, the other military wings) should only be telecast subject to a no-objection certificate from the government. With this missive, the ministry is looking to extend to web series the rules that currently govern the release of TV shows and movies that portray any of the defence forces. 

The rules outline a three-stage system that requires producers to first approach the defence forces before filming begins, and subsequently take the production through the censor board and the defence ministry for a final nod for release. 

ThePrint explains the process in place, and why bringing web series under the same framework may prove a challenge.


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‘To ensure image is not distorted’

Military-based movies have always been a popular genre in India and across the world. Among recent examples, the Vicky Kaushal-starrer Uri, based on the 2016 surgical strikes, was one of the highest grossers of 2019, and Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu donned the uniform in this year’s Sarileru Neekevvaru (Nobody Like You).

Asked about the clearance process for movies, an Army officer said producers first require a sanction letter from the Additional Directorate General of Public Information (ADGPI). 

The ADGPI, along with another department called the MI-11, is responsible for clearing films dealing with the Army. In the Indian Air Force and the Navy, the role is handled by the Directorate of Media and Public Relations and the Media and Public Information Cell, respectively. 

“The reason to go through the vetting process, which was also recently suggested for web films, was not to avoid criticism, but to ensure that the image of the Army is not distorted or projected in a wrong way,” a second officer said.

The current guidelines 

The guidelines governing military-related films in India kick in pre-production. The producer has to first submit an affidavit with details about the film, the production company, the script, concept, purpose of the film and its likely release date. They can also state if they require any equipment from the service. 

The producers are required to then sign an agreement with the government, submit a bank guarantee, and furnish an indemnity bond. 

Once the film is completed, producers have to submit it to the defence ministry before release. If there are portions the government considers “unsuitable, undesirable, improper and imprudent”, producers have to remove them. 

These portions have to be handed over to the government. “… The producer shall not sell, gift or lend or commercialise in any way, the footage of the said film without obtaining the prior permission of the government (Army HQ/Ministry of Defence) in writing, and without obtaining a no-demand certificate from the Government (Army HQ/Ministry of Defence),” the guidelines state.

A no-demand certificate indicates the producers don’t have any dues towards the Army.

Like all other films, the CBFC also certifies the movies. TV programmes depicting the Army require permission from the force and the government as well.


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No guidelines for web series

Army sources said the July letter that requires web series producers to obtain no-objection certificates seeks to extend existing rules to streaming platforms. “The same guidelines will apply for web series when they are vetted by the services,” an Army officer said.

The Union Defence Ministry’s letter is addressed to the CBFC, but Indian web series are currently not governed by any body, including the censor board, and regulation may consequently prove a challenge.   

In such a situation, getting such content vetted by the defence ministry may remain the producers’ discretion.


Also Read: Indian Army’s NOC demand after Ekta Kapoor apology shows it’s ok only with pure praise


 

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1 Comment Share Your Views

1 COMMENT

  1. Font think there is amy law in place which mandates the film producers to seek permission from MOD as stated in your article. Whether MoD has an internal guideline recommending it which may not be binding on third parties is a separate matter altogether.. Hence can you please clarify under which document is the process for approval as mentioned in the article enforced on film makers if at all

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