A Malayalam film revolving around atheism and corrupt religious figures, which the Central Board of Film Certification already cleared with a U certificate, was recently blocked by YouTube only to be unblocked 48 hours later. In a notice to Kerala Freethinkers Forum, which uploaded the film “Prabhuvinte Makkal” (God’s Children) on the video-sharing website, YouTube said its viewers had flagged the film as carrying inappropriate and offensive content. Apparently, YouTube reviewed the film and concluded that it did in fact violate the website’s content guidelines.
“The YouTube community has flagged one or more of your videos as inappropriate. Once a video is flagged, it is reviewed by the YouTube Team against our community guidelines. Upon review, we have determined that the following video contains content in violation of these guidelines and have been disabled: Prabhuvinte Makkal Full Movie (Malayalam),” read the message from YouTube.
YouTube’s content guidelines prohibit videos containing nudity, sex, hate speech, legal or dangerous acts and any video that violates copyright. The notice, sent on February 12, did not specify in what way exactly Prabhuvinte Makkal had violated the website’s content guidelines however.
“The film is openly critical of godmen and even the idea of god but there is nothing that violates these guidelines,” said C Vishwanathan, founder and president of Kerala Freethinkers Forum, a non-profit organization that encourages rational and scientific thinking.
Before being released in theatres in 2012, the censor board in India cleared “Prabhuvinte Makkal” with a U certificate that allows universal and unrestricted public exhibition of the film across the country. However, the film did not do so well at the box office, though it did generate a lot of public interest after the colossal success of a recent Hindi film titled “PK”, which too revolves around superstitions and blind faith.
According to Sajeevan Anthikad, director of Prabhuvinte Makkal, many people requested him to make the film available for viewing, which is why on January 8, Anthikad and Vishwanathan, both members of Kerala Freethinkers Forum, uploaded the film for all to view on YouTube.
“It went viral and within three weeks we had 120,000 viewers,” he said.
Both Anthikad and Vishwanathan allege Hindu fundamentalist groups resorted to reporting and flagging the film en masse in order to have it blocked on YouTube, a pattern they claim to have taken note of earlier with regards to other rationalist content shared by them. Reportedly, the Facebook page for Kerala Freethinkers Forum has been blocked over five times after similar mass reporting and flagging.
“This has happened with all Freethinker movements in Kerala, wherever we make some dent,” they said. “When we have 5,000 or 10,000 people liking or joining they won’t do anything. But once they cross the 100,000-mark then the backlash will come. This is the pattern that is followed all the time.”
The two said that along with the support of other Kerala Freethinkers Forum members and YouTube users, they would approach the video-sharing website with necessary documents and media reviews to ensure the film is restored online.
“Prabhuvinte Makkal” is Anthikad’s first feature film that narrates the story of a spiritual man who visits the holy city of Rishikesh only to discover the unending scams carried out in the name of God. The situation grows worse when he returns to his hometown and finds out that his family has been dragged into a messy situation by a corrupt godman.
Surprisingly, the film was unblocked and reinstated on YouTube 48 hours later on February 14.
“After a review of your account, we have confirmed that your YouTube account is not in violation of your terms of service. As such, we have unsuspended your account. This means, your account is once again active and operational,” read the message from YouTube.
Photo Credits: Malayalam Movie & Music DataBase (M3db)