At least two scenes were removed from the Amazon Prime Video web series Tandav, which found itself in more trouble on Wednesday with fresh FIRs against its makers and cast in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
In further trouble for Amazon, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the makers and producers of Mirzapur, after a petition claimed the show portrayed the Uttar Pradesh district in a bad light (the second season premiered on 23 October last year).
This is in addition to an FIR filed against Mirzapur on 17 January by journalist Arvind Chaturvedi of Mirzapur. The charge listed in the FIR is "deliberate and malicious intention of outraging religion feelings". A police team from Mirzapur is investigating the FIR in Mumbai.
Yet another UP police team is already in Mumbai to pursue cases filed against Tandav, which is accused of "insulting Hindu Gods".
One of the Tandav scenes removed had actor Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub in the role of college student Shiva playing the Hindu god Mahadeva in a play. A conversation between Lord Shiva and Narad Muni in the theatre production raised hackles. The scene is now missing, along with another showing the prime minister (played by Tigmanshu Dhulia) insulting a Dalit leader.
A statement released by the makers on Tuesday said: "We have utmost respect for the sentiments of the people of our country. We did not intend to hurt or offend the sentiments of any individual, caste, community, race, religion or religious beliefs or insult or outrage any institution, political party or person, living or dead". It added that the “cast and crew of Tandav have made the decision to implement changes to the web series to address the concerns raised towards the same.”
The Bombay High Court granted transit pre-arrest bail to director Ali Abbas Zafar, Amazon Prime India head Aparna Purohit, producer Himanshu Mehra and the show's writer Gaurav Solanki. The relief was granted for three weeks to enable them to approach the concerned court in Lucknow, where an FIR has been registered against them for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.
BJP leader Vjiay Goel and his supporters raised slogans against Tandav in the Delhi. In Uttar Pradesh, FIRs against the show have been filed in Lucknow, Greater Noida and Shahjahanpur. On 18 October, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's media advisor Shalabhmani Tripathi said the makers will have to pay the price for hurting religious sentiments.
Clampdown on OTT
In November last year, a government order had brought all online content under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B). We had written then: "It is difficult to see how shows like Paatal Lok, Sacred Games, Made in Heaven, The Family Man or Mirzapur can continue being made with the sort of opaque and stringent rules that govern our theatrical releases. Indian streaming TV was just coming into its own. But the party might already be over."
There have been no announcements since then from the ministry as to how online content might be regulated. But sustained pressure on series, especially those on Netflix and Amazon, mostly from right-leaning groups, has been unrelenting: A Suitable Boy and Mirzapur last year, and now Tandav. In the absence of clear rules and a regulatory framework, the move to self-censor by Amazon and Tandav is something we will likely see a lot more of in the coming months.
(With inputs from PTI)