The normalising of cuss words
DECCAN CHRONICLE | Sashidhar Adivi
The trailer of upcoming web series Shaitan directed by Mahi V. Raghav was released a few days ago and is trending big time. But many are shocked at the mainstream filmmaker’s use of cuss words and violence revealed in the trailer.
Wait! Shaitan isn’t an isolated case! Recently, the profane language in the web series Rana Naidu starring Venkatesh and Rana Daggubati set off ripples of shock. Fans and audience were surprised that Venkatesh was part of a project that used such language. The Shahid Kapoor-starrer Farzi is another web series which has foul words. It looks as if expletives are being gradually mainstreamed, as filmmakers go all out to tell rooted stories. But are they crossing the line?
Setting a dangerous precedent?
Agreed that the definition of profanity has been evolving as social norms change and become more flexible. But are our filmmakers failing to understand that it is not the words themselves, but the context (narrative) that is setting the tone? And is that a dangerous precedent? Filmmaker Mahi V. Raghav says the OTT is accepting of any kind of narration. Explaining that Shaitan, a hard-hitting crime drama, was made for a specific audience, he says, "Shaitan is my first take on crime and violence. I have chosen that world. So my character and dialogues should stay true to that universe, else it’s like doing an injustice to the narrative." His stand is that the poster and trailer clearly say what kind of a film Shaitan is. "So the audience has the choice whether to watch it or not. If you still complain about the content, it’s not our fault," he asserts.
Lack of censorship
The content on OTT platforms continues to cause concern. Last month, the Delhi High Court directed the Union Government to tighten regulations on the language used in web series streamed on OTT platforms. And guidelines are now being framed.
Director Venkatesh Maha, whose episode on the recent web series Anger Tales carried a disclaimer saying ‘exercised extreme caution’, says filmmakers use cuss words to aid in the realistic portrayal of scenes and characters and to emphasise the world the film is set in. "The reason I have added a disclaimer for my episode is because it has some harsh scenes and cuss words. The lack of censorship is an advantage for those who use it properly," he comments but warns that if filmmakers misuse this factor, they’re "being too smart for their own good."
To a question whether the brand value of an actor or filmmaker would take a beating because of the profane language, Venkatesh replies in the negative. "Let’s stop labelling or typecasting any actor or director. We, being in the creative field, want to explore every opportunity and not just be confined to a box," he says.
The freedom offered by the OTT excites several filmmakers to the point where they are free with cuss words, violence and explicit content. But for filmmakers Raj and DK, the biggest excitement comes from the freedom to cast whoever they want and be ‘different.’ "Normally, cuss words are used to show the character design and the world it is set in. Most of the profane language is used to describe the emotional state of the character," comments Raj.
The director duo is fascinated by crime web series and identify being quirky and humorous as strengths.
"Farzi was lauded mainly for its quirky treatment, humour, and the conversations between the characters. We try to give a normal situation a humorous spin," says Raj, referring to a scene in The Family Man where Manoj Bajpayee checks the meaning of an English cuss word used by his wife, in the middle of an argument.
"That’s what being quirky in filmmaking is," smiles the filmmaker adding that choice of words is a very subjective thing.
I always feel that you can’t dwell on past laurels; you need to move on. The next time you do such a series you should do it in such a way that everyone’s going to like it. I am going to please more audiences. Some people may get affected by the dialogues but we need to move on and try to see what best we can do next. You cannot please everyone all the time.
— Venkatesh, when asked about the Rana Naidu feedback at a recent press conference
I used cuss words in Shaitan because that’s how the character behaves. I have been getting positive as well as negative comments. Many have been saying that it has gone a little overboard. but I want them to watch the show so that They can see my character graph and arc. As an actor, I wanted to experience various roles and try to be different with each film
— Deviyani Sharma, actress