Southeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

4 - Uncensored and Proud: Examining Altbalaji’s Mainstreaming of Queerness in Digital Spaces

Saturday, July 7
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Mahogany, First Floor

A subsidiary of Balaji Telefilms, ALTBalaji is a subscription-based on-demand online media platform. Claiming to be the largest content bank of its kind currently in India, the platform engages with a global Indian populace in its online format. 
Notably, numerous shows featured on the ALTBalaji platform feature LGBTQ content. These include Romil and Jugal (2017), Dev DD (2017) and Boygiri (2017). Manav Sethi, ALTBalaji's chief marketing officer, has commented that this kind of content was enabled specifically by the nature of the streaming platform which doesn't have to follow official broadcasting guidelines as carefully.
Sethi references the two factors that I will discuss in this paper. Firstly, the fraught nature of LGBTQ content due to the currently contested status of Section 377. As a result of 377 being in effect but contested, the depiction of LGBTQ characters takes on additional socio-political and economic weight when viewed with regard to ALTBalaji’s glocal audiences. Secondly, Sethi’s assertion of the online medium being less moderated with regard to content echoes Romil and Jugal director, Nupur Asthana’s statement that the show could never have made it past Indian censors outside of the freedom of its online on-demand format (Pandey 2017).
This suggests that online and/or on-demand spaces function as a refuge within localized LGBTQ contexts, though there are considerable constraints to these presumed freedoms. This paper will consider this in detail, as well as the manner in which these online spaces are also invisibly bounded by caste and class within Indian contexts.

Samira Nadkarni

Independent Scholar, India

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4 - Uncensored and Proud: Examining Altbalaji’s Mainstreaming of Queerness in Digital Spaces



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