The makers of Amazon Prime Video’s new political drama ‘Tandav’ issued an “unconditional” apology on Monday evening after complaints to police in Maharashtra and UP alleged some scenes “insulted Hindu gods and goddesses”. The statement said any offence was unintentional and that the series was “a work of fiction (with) any resemblance to acts and persons and events purely coincidental”. The series, which stars Saif Ali Khan, Dimple Kapadia and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, was released Friday to relatively unenthusiastic reviews but quickly triggered outrage, a comment from the UP Chief Minister’s office that was seen as a warning and renewed calls to regulate OTT content.
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The cast and crew of ‘Tandav’ said they had “taken cognizance of concerns… and unconditionally apologise if it (the series) has unintentionally hurt anybody’s sentiments“. The apology came after the I&B Ministry, which has been urged to establish mechanisms to censor content on OTTs, sought a response from Amazon.
At least two complaints have been filed – one by a policeman in Lucknow this morning and another by Ram Kadam in Mumbai on Sunday. The UP cop alleged that 17 minutes into the first episode, “people dressed up in a very bad manner to represent Hindu gods and goddesses… that hurts religious sentiments”. Ram Kadam’s complaint added that the alleged insults to religious sentiments happened “every time”.
After the UP cop filed his complaint a key aide of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath warned those named to “be prepared to pay the price“. Adityanath’s media advisor, Shalabh Mani Tripathi, referred to police vehicles – a remark seen as alluding to gangster Vikas Dubey, who was killed in an encounter last year while being transported in a police vehicle.
Outrage over the series – expressed forcefully by BJP leaders and members of the public – led to Mumbai Police increasing security outside two of Amazon India’s office in the city and the residence of Saif Ali Khan. Manjunath Singe, DCP Zone 8, told news agency PTI that this was in light of protest marches led by BJP MLA Ram Kadam.
Saif Ali Khan was singled out by Ram Kadam on Sunday; he tweeted: “Saif Ali Khan is once again part of a film or series that has (hurt) Hindu sentiments”. Last month Mr Khan was criticised over remarks about a “humane” side to the character of Raavan in ‘Adipurush’, a film to be released next year. He later apologised for his remarks.
Among those to claim outrage over ‘Tandav’ is Kapil Mishra – a BJP leader who is accused of making incendiary speeches that triggered the violence that engulfed Delhi in February last year. “… web series available online spreading massive hate against our dharma and our Gods making hero out of terrorists…” he declared.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, in whose state a FIR was filed against Netflix – alleging that the BBC adaptation of Vikram Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’ had hurt religious sentiments – also commented, saying: “Nobody has the right to disrespect our gods and goddesses… in my opinion we need to keep a strict eye on OTT platforms as they are showing vulgar content.”
The protests have also led to a political row, with opposition parties lining up to criticise the BJP. The JDU (the BJP’s Bihar ally) and the Samajwadi Party (in the opposition in UP) have spoken out. The JDU’s KC Tyagi said politicians could not decide film content and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said the BJP was acting out a “tandav (Shiva’s dance of destruction) on ‘Tandav'” to deflect attention from the farmers’ protest.
Over the past few weeks OTTs like Prime and Netflix have been frequently accused of hurting religious or national sentiments. A Netflix movie starring Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap – in which Mr Kapoor plays the role of an Air Force officer – was criticised for “not conform(ing) to the behavioural norms of those in the Armed Forces of India”. Mr Kapoor apologised, saying sentiments had been unintentionally hurt.
In November the centre brought online news portals and content providers like Prime and Netflix under Mr Javadekar’s ministry. Previously there were no laws or panels governing digital content. This was after the Supreme Court sought its response on a petition to have an autonomous body regulate content on OTTs.
With input from PTI