Calling a spade a spadePranesh simply said what he felt about the movie and is paying a hefty price for that.
A strange thing is happening around me. A friend of mine, rather an acquaintance, Pranesh Gautam, has been in the custody of the Nepal Police for the past five days. He was arrested on cybercrime charges which, under its provisions, somehow happened to include making negative review videos of movies.
I may be wrong, but not one other YouTuber in the entire 15-year history of YouTube has been arrested over a negative movie review that was posted on the website. YouTube has intolerance policies for abusive and derogatory contents, but removing such content and blocking access to the channel is the most that has been done against such videos.
The man in question, Pranesh, is someone that I particularly do not have a liking for given the sexist and insulting tone he prefers to deliver his sets in. He has angered many females and males, even fellow comedians, due to his choice of words and use of the curtain of ‘comedy’ for saying things otherwise immensely inappropriate. This is a part of him that needs correction as a public figure and one that we believe he will fix soon, given his current circumstances.
But the issue here is greater than whether or not he has a habit of using foul words or that he has used derogatory remarks in his work for as long as we can remember. The question here remains, and I am sure it is a baffling one to each one of us, whether his actions deserved the intensity of consequences that he is facing.
Can making a movie review—albeit one full of derogatory remarks and slur words—be so criminal an act that the person making it should be arrested and kept in custody for a week despite attempts of bail, and forced to entertain people in the police station by singing and making jokes when he is under such pressure?
It is as clear as day that this is abuse of power in an attempt to show the younger generation how the system in Nepal operates. The director of the movie, also the initiator of the case, said that the review had led to loss of audience for the movie that was already three weeks into its release when the review was uploaded. Three weeks is a long time for any Nepali movie in the theaters, and there’s a doubt the review video could have made any drastic influence on its sales. He also added that he was going to take this chance to show all YouTubers of Nepal how using foul language and derogatory remarks against artists is unacceptable. Meaning that the film industry of Nepal is using Pranesh’s case as an example of how one should not speak against Nepali movies, regardless of how awful the film is.
Minus the fact that the video had derogatory remarks about people whose sentiments were possibly hurt, the video was about how the movie was not that great. I have not watched the movie, and I do not know whether or not the movie sucks, but isn’t it a matter of subjective thought anyway? Who’s to say what makes me laugh must make all others laugh too? Pranesh simply stated what he felt about the movie, and is paying a rather wrongful and hefty price for that.
Each and every one of us should take this personally. I, as an amateur writer, am particularly fearful of the thought that this is how freedom of expression will slowly be killed. Last year, 63 journalists around the world were killed for doing their job. Amidst rising violation of press freedom and freedom of expression, I hope Nepal does not have to join the list of nations that have compromised their right to keep in touch with reality for the sake of a few powerful authorities.
I hope this agonising incident comes to an end for Pranesh and for all of us who are hanging on the edge, keeping our faith in Nepal’s judicial system intact. I hope he will be released soon, and if not, a revolution is always waiting to happen. I have spent my entire childhood watching adults being forced to rally in protest, and do not wish to spend my adulthood protesting for my basic rights. The rally for #freepranesh today was the first one I have ever participated in, and wish for it to be one of the last.
Gupta is a freelance writer.