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Amazon’s ‘Tandav’ Show Angers India’s Hindu Nationalists

  • January 18, 2021

Global companies are helping to provide the platforms for Indian viewers. Major streaming services like Amazon, Netflix and Hotstar, which is owned by Disney, have invested heavily in a country they see as holding great growth potential.

But they have been caught up at times in India’s increasingly restrictive political environment.

Two months ago, an on-screen kiss put Netflix into a similar bind. Hindu nationalists were outraged that a series on Netflix showed a Hindu woman kissing a Muslim man in front of a Hindu temple — a scene that the Hindu nationalists felt violated multiple taboos. The Hindu nationalists have demanded the authorities investigate Netflix and have called for a boycott. No charges have been filed.

The true objection to “Tandav” may simply be that it’s too real. The opening episode looks almost like a newsreel. It cuts from farmer protests to student protests to police killings — all events that have happened in recent months under the administration of Narendra Modi, India’s Hindu nationalist prime minister.

It doesn’t shy away from touchy topics. In one scene, a fictionalized Indian prime minister belittles a lower caste politician, touching on the sensitive topic of the age-old Hindu social system.

Even the episode’s title is provocative. It is called “Dictator.”

“They are using abusive language and trying to defame the post of the prime minister, clearly hinting at our current prime minister,” said Ram Kadam, a B.J.P. lawmaker who filed one of the criminal complaints.

The authorities in Uttar Pradesh State, home to many recent police killings and run by one of Mr. Modi’s closest allies, a Hindu monk turned chief minister, seem especially offended. They said in a filing with the police there that the Amazon series portrays the post of prime minister “in a very indecent manner.” On Monday, state officials warned that the filmmakers should “prepare for arrest.”

In the past few months, officials belonging to Mr. Modi’s party have ratcheted up their pressure on some of the most successful artists in the country. Critics see that pressure as an effort to quash views that question Hindu nationalist ideology, which seeks to turn India into an overt Hindu state and push non-Hindu minorities to the margins.

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