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Amazon Prime Apologizes For Religious Offence Caused by ‘Tandav’ as Indian Government Sets Strict Content Code

Naman Ramachandran
·2-min read

In an unprecedented move Amazon Prime Video India has apologized for its Indian original series “Tandav,” some parts of which had offended members of the ruling Hindu nationalist dispensation.

The series, created by Muslim filmmaker Ali Abbas Zafar, featured a scene in which a character, played by Muslim actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, portrayed the Hindu God Shiva. Amazon quickly edited the scene and Zafar apologized. On Tuesday, Amazon also issued a formal statement of apology.

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“Amazon Prime Video again deeply regrets that viewers considered certain scenes to be objectionable in the recently launched fictional series ‘Tandav’,” the streamer said in a written statement. “This was never our intention, and the scenes that were objected to were removed or edited when they were brought to our attention. We respect our viewers’ diverse beliefs and apologize unconditionally to anyone who felt hurt by these scenes. Our teams follow company content evaluation processes, which we acknowledge need to be constantly updated to better serve our audiences. We will continue to develop entertaining content with partners, while complying with the laws of India and respecting the diversity of culture and beliefs of our audiences.”

Two events of recent days may explain the groveling.

The Indian government last week issued guidelines governing streamers and social media platforms that go beyond platforms’ attempts to self-regulate and which specify religion as a red line. “The category classification of a content will take into account the potentially offensive impact of a film on matters such as caste, race, gender, religion, disability or sexuality that may arise in a wide range of works, and the classification decision will take account of the strength or impact of their inclusion,” the guidelines state.

In addition, Amazon India head of originals Aparna Purohit remains the target of court action. The Allahabad High Court last week rejected an application by Purohit for anticipatory bail after arguing that “Tandav” is a work of fiction and there was no intention to hurt members of any community.

“The young generation of the country, which is not much aware of the social and cultural heritage of this country, gradually starts believing what is shown in the movies by the people like the accused persons in the present movie in dispute and thereby, it destroys the basic concept of the survival of this country having tremendous diversity of all kinds as a united nation,” the court ruling said.

“The fact remains that the applicant had not been vigilant and has acted irresponsibly making her open to criminal prosecution in permitting streaming of a movie which is against the fundamental rights of the majority of citizens of this country. Therefore, her fundamental right of life and liberty cannot be protected by grant of anticipatory bail to her in the exercise of discretionary powers of this Court,” the court explained.

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