Thursday, February 25, 2021

Indian Amazon Prime show agrees to changes after outcry over religious sensitivities

The cast and crew have agreed to make changes in order to comply with the demands of the politicians and parties that say it crosses religious lines.

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The cast and crew of a popular streaming series starring Bollywood megastar Saif Ali Khan have agreed to “implement changes” to the show after ruling party politicians accused it of insulting Hindu gods.

The Amazon Prime drama “Tandav” – loosely compared to the US series “House of Cards” – drew criticism from members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party after its Friday release.

Several BJP politicians called for the show to be banned, saying it was “deliberately mocking Hindu gods” and disrespecting religious sentiments.

One of the criticised scenes depicts a university play in which Hindu deity Shiva talks about “azaadi” (freedom), a rallying cry from 2019’s anti-government protests across the country.

“The cast and crew of Tandav have made the decision to implement changes to the web series to address the concerns raised,” director Ali Abbas Zafar wrote in a post on Twitter late Tuesday.

The cast and crew also apologised on Monday, with Zafar saying that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had told the team it had received “a large number of grievances and petitions… with serious concerns and apprehensions” over the series.

“‘Tandav’ is a work of fiction and any resemblance to acts and persons and events is purely coincidental,” he said Monday.

The petitioners include Ram Kadam, a BJP lawmaker in Mumbai, who said he was “fighting for Hindu pride and trying to ensure that nobody dare to mock our Hindu Gods”.

Leading streaming platforms, including Netflix, Amazon and Disney’s Hotstar, have expanded their presence in the country of 1.3 billion, including by commissioning local content.

The streaming TV services are not subject to the country’s notoriously fussy censor boards, which regularly cut scenes.

But there have been growing calls, particularly from BJP politicians, for the shows to be subject to the same scrutiny.

The most recent controversy involved the BBC’s TV version of Vikram Seth’s epic bestselling novel, “A Suitable Boy”, which is streaming on Netflix, over a scene where a Hindu girl kisses a Muslim boy in front of a temple.

A BJP politician in November filed a police complaint saying the show had hurt Hindus’ religious sentiments.

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