The Film Critics Guild wrote to Disney+ Hotstar disapproving of a note sent by the Over The Top (OTT) platform instructing critics to treat their upcoming web series Grahan “with sensitivity” and restrict reviews to “aspects of the show like dialogue, cinematography, etc”.
Anupama Chopra, the chairperson of the Film Critics Guild and the Chairperson of Film Companion, in the statement said that the OTT platform sent film reviewers “four prescriptive guidelines” on June 20 along with the screener and embargo of the film.
Chopra shared screenshots of the letter that highlighted the instructions and stated her disappointment regarding the platform’s step as it had “chosen to presumptuously tell journalists and reviewers how they should review a series, what they should include and what they must exclude.”
The instruction manual noted that Grahan was a work of fiction inspired by author Satya Vyas’ novel Chaurasi that was published in 2018. It is a love story set in the backdrop of the 1984 Sikh riots in Delhi, the note said. The show also goes over the ramification of the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the OTT platform added. The eight-episode show, directed by Ranjan Chandel, features actors Zoya Hussain, Wamiqa Gabbi, Anshuman Pushkar, Pawan Malhotra, and others Disney+ Hotstar said.
The guidelines further instructed reviewers to refrain from “misrepresenting any particular community or religious group in the review” and connecting the show “to any current or past situations/activities around the political happenings.”
In response, the FCG wrote, “This amounts to an outrageous breach of the professional relationship between a streaming platform and qualified, experienced, independent journalists.” It called the intervention “heedless transgressions” that not only undermine the integrity and autonomy of journalists by blurring the lines between editorial and business but also a violation of the freedom of speech and expression.
The association asked the platform to rethink its move and withdraw the “inappropriate instructions” without taking any censorious role with the members.
Besides Chopra, the guild comprises journalists such as Bhawana Somaaya, Bharathi Pradhan, Rohit Khilnani, and Baradwaj Rangan.