The Spanish crime drama series Money Heist has been blamed for a spate of offences in Hyderabad. A four-member gang has said the Netflix series inspired them to carry out a kidnapping and half-a-dozen other crimes.
The superhit Telugu movie Pushpa has also been named as the inspiration of a few recent crimes. The impact that the visual media has on social mores is once again the subject of debate.
Though the emergence of the OTT platform is credited for recognition of new talent, freedom of artistic expression and other positives, the dark side of the development is not often discussed.
According to Hyderabad police, 27-year-old Suresh, was inspired by the main character of Money Heist, the Professor — who recruited people to carry out crimes. In a statement, the police said that Suresh had recruited four others, including a woman, to abduct people and hold them to ransom.
Sub Inspector of Asif Nagar, R. Sreenaiah says, “Once the kidnappers received the ransom money, they would threaten to kill the victim if they complained to the police, and would release them.” He said that the gang was involved in more than 12 such crimes but most victims are refusing to file FIRs.
Two weeks ago, police arrested one Yaseen Inayatullah, and charged him with trying to smuggle sandalwood. He said he was inspired by the film Pushpa.
Prop for the criminally-inclined
Rini Anweshi, Sub-Inspector, Prohibition and Excise department, Govt. of Telangana
Rini Anweshi says “People who are inclined towards anti-society activities constantly look for something that supports their core belief system. Such people take help from movies and TV shows. Many crime movies show how criminals cover their tracks.”
Rini feels the censor board needs to intervene in this matter. “Instead of just censoring nudity, profanity and violence, they must also censor content that will inspire people to commit crime and give them ideas. Such a powerful medium should be used with care,” Rini asserts.
“However, no matter what criminals do, they will always get caught, even if it takes time. They can never get away unlike what is shown in movies,” stresses Rini.
Promoting negative values
Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri is an Indian film director, screenwriter, author, member of India’s Central Board of Film Certification and a representative of Indian Cinema at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri is of the opinion that films tend to glamourize villains. He says, “I’ve seen Money Heist. The show has glamourised robbers. In the guise of saying that the system is wrong, they propagate the idea of taking out a gun and killing people. I think this message is terribly wrong. It promotes poor values.”
He also criticises the web series Mirzapur in this regard, saying, “The show is built on a Bollywood fantasy and gives the idea that everyone in Mirzapur is a criminal.”
When asked why such content continues to be made in these times of social awareness, Vivek says, “Filmmakers don’t care about the aware or the educated. They are like politicians. There is a box office and a colossal lot of illiterate and unaware people who will consume such content. Many of them don’t care about humanity, equality and human rights.”
He stresses that filmmakers need to be more responsible because they can influence society more than the politicians or anyone else.
Self-regulation is the answer
Artistic freedom is cited when movies and shows that propagate socially dangerous ideas are criticised. Vivek, however, says, “Artistic freedom is not bigger than humanity. Human values are supreme.” He adds, “I am of the view that OTT, is the most dangerous medium, and should be self-regulated by all stakeholders getting together, just like it’s done in advertising, documentaries and television. In television there is no censorship but there is a self-regulatory body called Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC). There is no such body for OTT and I feel one should be introduced soon.”