Editorial: Netflix in a 'food fight' over Annapoorani

Editorial: Netflix in a 'food fight' over Annapoorani

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Friday, January 12, 2024, 11:18 PM IST
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Annapoorani poster | File

The American streaming behemoth Netflix taking down the film Annapoorani – The Goddess of Food from its services is highly condemnable from the perspective of free speech, but it should not come as a surprise. Netflix and its rival, Amazon Prime, are hugely popular streaming services in India, the market for which has been projected to be in the region of $7 billion in the next three years. No conglomerate wants to take a risk on its revenue and profits from an important market in the world.

The film Annapoorani, released in theatres in December in southern India, aired on Netflix later that month. Right-wing Hindutva activists from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which has close affiliations to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and therefore, to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, dragged the streaming platform to the police because the film depicts the daughter of a Hindu temple priest eating meat and participating in a culinary show where she cooks meat. The platform clearly got cold feet and decided to honour Hindutva sentiments. The ground reality though is different; a large majority of Indians, though Hindus, eat meat — but that’s a different story.

In 2021, Amazon apologized for some “offensive” scenes in its series Tandav, which faced court cases and complaints that they had offended Hindus. The cold commerce apart, this decision by Netflix has implications for what filmmakers can make and show, what kind of content the platform will support and defend even against the politically powerful, and what this means for free speech and expression in the creative industry. The film, it must be remembered, was cleared by India’s official Censor Board. In taking down legitimate content or offering apology, the streaming services are playing unconstitutional censors under the pressure of the ruling regime. India is creatively poorer for it.

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