Bollywood, streaming giants on the edge as Amazon receives criticism for hurting religious beliefs in India


MUMBAI (Reuters) – The controversy in India over Amazon’s political drama “Tandav” has made Bollywood and the global video streaming giants nervous, prompting closer scrutiny of scripts for possible offense to videographers. religious sentiments in a key growing market.

Companies like Amazon’s Prime Video and Netflix are inspecting planned shows and scripts, with some even removing scenes that could be controversial, said five Bollywood directors and producers, and two industry sources.

This occurs when Amazon Prime Video has been embroiled in legal cases and police complaints alleging that “Tandav” represents Hindu gods and goddesses in a derogatory way and offends religious beliefs. “Tandav”, a Hindi word that means fury, stars the best Bollywood actors.

Public outcry over obscenity and religious depictions is common in culturally sensitive India, but the “Tandav” problem skyrocketed when police questioned Amazon India’s head of original content for Prime Video for hours after official complaints.

Fearing arrest, Aparna Purohit filed an advance bond, which was rejected by a state court, but the Supreme Court on Friday gave her protection from arrest.

“The scripts are being read and reread now,” said a producer from Bollywood, India’s Hindi film industry. “Broadcast platforms are investigating content for anything they consider a red flag,” added the producer, who did not want to be named.

Amazon has decided to delay the airing of a new season of a popular Hindi-language spy thriller “The Family Man,” due to be released last month, four of the sources told Reuters.

The show, Amazon says, is about the efforts of an Indian intelligence officer in his “high-pressure, low-pay job.”

While Amazon declined to comment, one of the sources said the delay was “a ripple effect of what happened with Tandav.”

A poster for Tandav, a web series on the website of the video streaming service Amazon Prime, is seen in this illustrated image taken on March 5, 2021. REUTERS / Danish Siddiqui / Illustration

Amazon recently issued a public apology “to anyone hurt” by “Tandav,” saying some objectionable scenes had been removed.

India, the second most populous nation in the world with 1.3 billion people, is a valuable market for Amazon and its rivals Netflix and Walt Disney Co.’s Disney + Hotstar.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said at an event last year that Prime Video was doing well globally “but nowhere is it doing better than in India.”

Netflix has announced 41 new shows and movies for 2021 in India, up from around 30 new titles released in 2020.

‘TOO MUCH RISK’, FEARS OF DETENTION

Unlike movies, content on video streaming platforms currently faces no censorship in India.

But some lawmakers and supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party say that certain shows on Amazon and Netflix promote obscenity or damage religious beliefs.

A member of the ruling party’s youth wing filed a police complaint against Netflix, objecting to scenes from the series “A Right Boy” that show a Hindu girl kissing a Muslim boy against the backdrop of a Hindu temple.

Netflix is ​​closely following Amazon’s “Tandav” cases, an entertainment industry source said.

Netflix declined to comment.

A scene from “Tandav” removed by Amazon after the release was around a play in which a person acting as the Hindu god Shiva seeks suggestions on how to increase his following on social media after someone says that Lord Ram it was becoming very popular online.

The revered figures of the faith have “been lampooned and portrayed in a very cheap way,” observed the state court judge as he declined Purohit’s early bail declaration.

However, the Supreme Court granted him protection from arrest subject to his cooperation in the case.

His lawyer said Amazon was willing to cut more scenes from “Tandav” if it wanted.

Among the biggest consequences of the controversy is the growing fear of arrest. Some producers ask for clauses in their contracts with transmission services to protect them from lawsuits.

“It’s too risky and not worth the headache, especially if you are threatened with jail time,” said one producer.

Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar, Aditya Kalra and Euan Rocha; Additional information from Sankalp Phartiyal and Saurabh Sharma; Edited by Himani Sarkar

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