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I am a very reluctant movie-goer and OTT watcher, sometimes, to the point of being labelled ‘abnormal’. I insist that if I must spend three hours of my time at a stretch on entertaining myself, it should be just that – entertainment. I must walk away with a ‘feel good’ factor. I must learn something new and become wiser. I must feel mentally stimulated. There are a good many movies through which I could achieve these aims in the past but the numbers seem to be dwindling rapidly. That is not to say that brilliant movies are not made any more but happy content does not excite the box office as much as it did earlier . Today one can count on one hand, the number of enjoyable movies that can be watched, three generations sitting together at home over ‘chai and samosa’ on a Saturday evening. It is quite another thing that the idea of spending a Saturday evening in this manner is passé.

Censorship and film certification standards appear to have undergone serious shifts towards accepting what was not long back, totally unacceptable not just for children but for any age group. With the proliferation of OTT platforms, there is no ‘vetted content’ at all. I am not qualified to say if that is good or bad but availability of smart devices to everyone who can handle them means that such content can be viewed by any school-going child that has access to the Internet through a smart device. A primary school student can watch a blue film today with complete ease provided he or she can navigate the Net. Sex, brutality and violence pervade the digital and visual entertainment milieu. Even online games thrive on brutality and violence, the most popular ones being those that addict young minds to such fare. Remember Blue Whale? It is my hypothesis that children could grow up thinking that violent, brutal and promiscuous behaviour as well as things like alcohol and drug abuse are normal. Parents and teachers have lost control as denial of devices is not an option and expecting self-control from a pre-teen kid without investing in their home education is foolish.

Reality is the flavour of our age. Every movie or show, according to its creators, must reflect the stark reality of the big bad world. Nobody stops to think what irreversible effects this may create on young minds that have not yet developed the power to reason or discern. Add to this the stresses of poverty, broken homes, lack of avenues for growth, unemployment, pandemics, overcrowding of urban centres, radicalisation of organised religion, suppression of women and such other socio-cultural factors, and we have a fail-proof formula for the creation of a more chaotic society than the one in which we live today. Negativity sells. Violence excites. Brutality fans the animal instincts within us. Unbridled sex draws the crowds. Fanning hatred serves the self-serving. And all this on the screens set the cash registers ringing furiously. We are responsible for creating these conditions for our future generations and I do not see any hope of reversing this trend. The world of today needs a liberal dose of idealism and, if miraculously possible, some spiritual awakening to bring back a semblance of ‘goodness’ in all its dimensions.

I recently spent a disgusting two and a half hours watching a movie that hit the headlines. It required court rulings for staying bans on its screening in different parts of the country. The film has also been ‘mentioned in dispatches’ in political debates, with obviously opposing views, depending on which side of the ideological divide the speaker belonged. True or not, it made me sick in the gut to the extent that I almost threw up my interval snack. If such movies attract critical appreciation and who knows, movie awards, I am obviously and terribly out of sync with the times.

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