Saturday , July 13 2024

Netflix pulls Indian culinary drama after religious backlash


A popular newly released Indian film was pulled from Netflix on Thursday after a backlash from Hindu activists for its depictions of meat-eating and inter-religious romance.

“Annapoorani: The Goddess of Food” was taken down just weeks after its premiere in the latest instance of digital entertainment platforms in India canning controversial projects.

The film, which was the second-most watched Netflix feature in India the day before its removal, centers on the daughter of a Hindu priest who aspires to become the country’s top chef.

In the process she abandons the strict vegetarianism of her upbringing — controversial because many upper-caste Hindus abstain from eating meat.

A Muslim classmate helps her navigate the challenges of her cut-throat culinary school and the pair eventually fall in love, transcending India’s most fraught religious divide.

One affronted activist went as far as filing a police complaint last week alleging that the film promoted “love jihad” — a derogatory term coined by Hindu nationalists who accuse Muslim men of marrying Hindu women and forcing them to convert.

Ramesh Solanki, who filed the complaint, said on X that Netflix and co-producer Zee Studios had “deliberately made this film… to hurt Hindu sentiments” and asked police to prosecute the movie’s main stars.

A campaign urging a boycott of the film and its immediate removal from Netflix had also been trending on social media for several days.

Annapoorani had been removed from Netflix’s suite in India by Thursday afternoon, prompting jubilation from the film’s critics.

Shriraj Nair, a spokesman for a Hindu activist group which slammed the film, said its makers had “realized their mistake.”

“We have never ever interfered in the creative freedom of any film but Hindu Bashing and mocking will never be tolerated,” he wrote on X.

AFP has contacted Netflix’s India arm for comment.

India has a long history of film censorship, but the industry has increasingly shied away from content that could offend the religious sensibilities of the country’s majority faith since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014.

The Washington Post reported in December that Netflix and fellow digital entertainment platform Amazon Prime had shelved several projects in India for fear of hurting Hindu sentiments in the officially secular country.

In one case, prominent director Anurag Kashyap told the newspaper that one of his adaptations had been cancelled by Netflix in 2021 as part of a campaign of “invisible censorship.”

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