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Amazon’s original series Tandav’s controversy attracts government criticism

Netflix and chill was recently seen changing into Amazon prime and chill with all the amazing originals Amazon Prime threw our way. The Indian market can play a key role in helping Amazon conquer the video streaming industry and its beautifully picked originals definitely act as an aid to the process. However, the new Amazon original Tandav has created headlines- not exactly for the reasons they would want though. Tandav has been in controversies after being alleged for hurting religious sentiments and has received excessive political backlash.

Amazon Prime’s new original series Tandav allegedly has religiously insensitive scenes and have hurt people’s sentiments, owing to which complaints have been filed and authorities have been brought in. The scene in question involves a character wearing blue paint in a criss-cross pattern over his face- portraying the Hindu lord Shiva, along with the mythological sage messenger, Narad Muni.  The Hindu deity Lord Shiva is portrayed in a slightly modern format with Trishul in his hand.

He can be seen making jokes and using cuss words, which was hurtful for followers of the religion. Not just Hindu-phobic, the show has been labelled to be Anti-Dalit too. The theme usually revolved around how students want freedom from caste-based discrimination, poverty and status violence.

Was the aggression justified? Maybe. Because the presence of the scene was uncalled for in the series and considering the religious environment of the country at this point, it could’ve been totally avoided. But the real problem here is the fact that volatility of the religious environment is so high that people have forgotten how faith and belief actually looked like. To give a little context- most of the hate received by the show makers were about the fact that a Muslim guy was playing the character and the scene involved a Hindu deity and not a Muslim one. This right here is problematic and is way too distracted from the what the beautiful religion of Hinduism actually believes in. Had the debate really been how the scene is actually problematic, which it is, the concern would’ve been more justified. However, the political agendas being shoved down people’s throat has led people see otherwise.

 Was it meant to hurt religious sentiments? I believe not. The scene was created totally in theme with the series’ plot and a more careful representation would’ve made it completely in line. However, it is to be noted that the religious environment of the country is way more volatile than usual and this is a more prominent reason of the vocal demand for ban.

Another scene that brought in the label Anti-Dalit was when the female lead, Sandhya tells the father of her child that it is believed that if a Dalit boy dates a girl from upper caste, it is because he seeks revenge for the wrong that has been done on his community.

The society is getting progressive and still perpetuating such thoughts is definitely not the way to go. Anti-Dalit? I’m not so sure. But problematic? Sure.  

Even though the show makers claimed the work to be fictional and any resemblance to be coincidental, the show’s plotline can be seen loosely in line with the current political controversies that have erupted due to increased Hindu nationalism.

After BJP ministers jumped in to get the series banned, claiming it to ‘‘intentional mock Hindu deities”, the director on behalf of cast and crew released a statement on twitter saying, “The cast and crew of ‘Tandav’ take cognizance of the concerns expressed by the people and unconditionally apologize if it has unintentionally hurt anybody’s sentiments”.

Ministry of information and broadcast informed that a discussion would happen with the team of the show and has thus, reached out to executives at Amazon. Investigations are still in process for the police complaints launched against the director and crew of Tandav by BJP ministers over allegations like inciting religious violence and wilfully depicting scenes that could cause harm.

However, one of the major distressing paradigms of this incident is its timing- not only in terms of a volatile political environment  but also since the discussion that Ministry of Information and Broadcast and Information would be regulating and maintaining the content posted by OTT platforms in India.  This means that Ministry of Information and Broadcast would now have rights to censor content according to their wit and may argue that the current laws in place for objectionable content are not adequate. And honestly, no youngster is happy about it. After all, this moral policing knowns no bounds when it comes to our bizarre politicians and their embarrassing ideologies.

The controversy that Tandav has led to a bigger debate of regulatory and censorship needs for OTT platforms like Amazon, Netflix and others. These limitations to right of speech include any phenomena that could adversely effect the sovereignty, culture, or integrity of the country, morality of sections, incitement of offences or  contempt of court and defamation. Most of the terms used in here are subjective and vary from section to section, people to people.

While the censor board for movies and serials still has control over the what the audience could see, the OTT platforms were youngster’s free escape to the world they deem fine. However, the newly sparked debates due to the new Amazon original has led to a conversation of this all over again, with many articles and ministries suggesting the need for regulation and maintenance of content posted on the streaming platforms.

The new boycott culture that is setting its root in the country is being used for phenomenon very different from it should be- thanks to the politician’s agendas and their influence on general public. The path we’ve opted is not what a developing country, both in terms of economy and ideologies, should move on. It’s time we prioritise our needs and raise voice for what is actually important.

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