Seems like India has gathered a new hobby… banning stuff, especially on the Internet. And the victims are numerous.
Ghoul, Leila, Patriot Act and, now, Sacred Games — these Netflix original shows have angered some Indians so much that they are calling Netflix “The enemy hiding in our living room.” So much so that Ramesh Solanki, the member of a far-right group, has filed an official complaint against Netflix, alleging its contents portray India and Hindus in a “bad light globally”.
While Sacred Games was called out for showing nudity and sexual activities in a religious cult, Leila was condemned for its depiction of ‘Aryavrat’ — a land in the dystopian future where Hindu nationalists have taken over the state. Standup comedian Hasan Minhaj’s Netflix show, Patriot Act, has also angered many for his takes on issues like the Indian elections and Article 370. While it is common for religious extremists to act out, the real surprise came was when #BanNetflixInIndia started to trend on Twitter with over 40 thousand tweets since Friday morning.
Numerous Indians are of the belief that these shows can cause the downfall of India’s image. “This is exactly how one destroys a nation. Just by destroying the moral and ethical fibers of the civilisation,” says Shivani Rawat, a law student. Many also believe that Netflix has only been critical to Hinduism. However, last month, BJP’s Tajinder Bagga filed a police complaint against Anurag Kashyap over a scene that he believed was against Sikh sentiments.
Interestingly, Leila had striking similarities with American web series The Handmaid’s Tale, which also portrays a dystopian future where women are treated like public birth-giving vessels in a society dominated by upper-class male citizens. However, the hue and cry in the West regarding the show have been much less. “I am very happy that people in our country get to voice their opinions. But, this trend of attempting to act on those vapid, fusty opinions of a few is only making our so-called free country a prison in which even art needs to be filtered,” fumes Aarati Satish, a VFX production assistant.
Movies have always been under the clutches of censorship in India. Whereas, streaming services formed the only space for content creators to experiment. But, these calls to bans come at a time when the Indian Government is already in talks of devising a certification mechanism for even OTT platforms. Many young and upcoming media professionals feel this to be the ultimate curbing of their creative liberties. “I am personally very much against this move as both a creator and a consumer. It steps on my right to access different content, without any good reason,” believes Manasvi Singh Chauhan, a creative writer for a production house.
In the past, similar protests have taken place during the releases of movies like Padmaavat, Inshallah and Black Friday. However, those had never managed to stir the common mass as much. Akansha concludes, “Such stories have always existed. It’s just that people are too quick to judge nowadays. The concept of right and wrong is subjective and the reactions these shows are getting are only indicative of the prevailing environment of our country.” This also compels one to wonder, where were these protests when Muslims were portrayed in stereotyped roles for decades together?