The boycott trend in India has gained some unreasonable momentum and we are wondering if this is the end of freedom of speech and expression. Indian audiences are jumping to conclusions and taking offence at even the slightest portrayal of scenes that apparently go against their parampara, pratishtha, and anushasan (though we wonder who is even writing these arbitrary rules of traditions and sentiments). While there are hundreds of things that one can, should, and need to take offence to (increasing cases of sexual violence being one of the biggest, social media harassment and bullying culture, climate change are just a few examples), there are people who are not ready to look beyond a kiss!
Mira Nair’s BBC series, called A Suitable Boy, that recently released on Netflix has been causing rage among the audience and people have started demanding that Netflix users boycott the streaming platform altogether. It all happened over a scene from the film where a Muslim boy (Kabir Durrani) and a Hindu girl (Tanya Maniktala) kiss each other in a temple. BJP youth leader, Gaurav Tiwari, filed an FIR over the same and asked his followers on Twitter to uninstall Netflix, following which, #BoycottNetflix started trending on the microblogging site.
He wrote, “Netflix India in its series, A Suitable Boy, shot three kissing scenes in the very first episode in the premises of a temple. According to the plot, the Hindu girl loves the Muslim boy but why were all the kissing scenes shot only in the temple? I have filed an FIR in Rewa for this.”
अपने ‘A Suitable Boy’ कार्यक्रम में @NetflixIndia ने एक ही एपिसोड में तीन बार मंदिर प्रांगण में चुंबन दृश्य फ़िल्माए। पटकथा के अनुसार मुस्लिम युवक को हिंदू महिला प्रेम करती है, पर सभी किसिंग सीन मंदिर प्रांगण में क्यूँ शूट किए गए?— Gaurav Tiwari (@adolitics) November 21, 2020
मैने रीवा में इस मामले पर FIR दर्ज करा दी है। pic.twitter.com/RcwuPDDME2
Later, the Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Narottam Mishra, also gave a statement in the matter and tweeted, “A film named ‘A Suitable Boy’ has been released on an OTT media platform. It has extremely objectionable scenes in it that hurts the sentiments of a particular religion. I have ordered the police officials to look into it and examine the controversial content.”
एक #ओटीटी_मीडिया_प्लेटफॉर्म पर "A Suitable Boy" नामक फ़िल्म जारी की गई है। इसमें बेहद आपत्तिजनक दृश्य दिखाए गए हैं जो एक धर्म विशेष की भावनाओं को आहत करते हैं। मैंने पुलिस अधिकारियों को इस विवादास्पद कंटेंट का परीक्षण कराने को निर्देशित किया है। pic.twitter.com/oYSiizJxCQ— Dr Narottam Mishra (@drnarottammisra) November 22, 2020
Some users came forward in defence of the streaming giant and called the entire boycott trend regressive. Some even pointed out that in the Hindu religion, there are many temples like Khajurahoi in Madhya Pradesh and Sun Temple in Konark have erotic sculptures all over the temple buildings.
Regressed, Orthodog hindutva gangs are trending #BoycottNetflix— Mr.Fixit (@yippeekiyay_dk) November 22, 2020
Waiting for Supreme Court to intervene and say, "If u don't like the show, simply don't watch it".
What will happen now to sculptures in ancient temples ? From Khajooraho to Ajanta ...We have much more there.... #BoycottNetflix— NIRAV (@NiravRokadia) November 22, 2020
This isn’t the first time when people have jumped to boycotting a movie or series for some allegedly offensive scenes. In fact, Indians have come dangerously close to making boycott a trend and either use it for their political propaganda or personal gains. To imagine the Indians boycotting Netflix -- the largest streaming platform globally -- simply over a few scenes, sound a little absurd and frankly, quite dramatic.
Recently, a Tanishq ad was also taken off due to public outrage that apparently promoted ‘Love Jihad’ and hurt sentiments of some particular religion or people. Moreover, another Tanishq ad was forced to be removed because it promoted cracker-free Diwali! Sounds pretty absurd, right? Wait till you read about these movies and series that have faced similar rows where people have demanded its ban over some of the most unthinkable reasons! From the content being too lady-oriented to simply saying that a scene is offensive without even watching the movie, we found a list of shows and movies that were demanded to be boycotted for reasons beyond logic.
Many sexist songs (read: Gandi Baat) and movies (read: Cocktail) surprisingly didn’t receive any massive backlash, while on the other hand, there have been really empowering movies like Chapaak that enraged the audience for… no reason at all!
Read on to know more!
Lipstick Under My Burkha was a much-anticipated movie because a) team of really talented female artists and b) the trailer promised a liberated and empowering storyline. Well, there were mixed reviews on whether the movie was empowering or not but there were certainly a lot of boycott appeals because of the sexually explicit content and use of strong language. If that was really the reason, we wonder how people had no problem with movies like Gangs of Wasseypur that had much more explicit scenes and language! Moreover, Muslim leaders protested against the release of the film in Bhopal as it hurt their religious sentiments (because wearing lipstick under burkha is offensive?). The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) also claimed that the movie is quite ‘lady-oriented’. We wish that the entertainment industry makes more such lady-oriented movies so that these ridiculous claims finally stop!
Let’s go back to the time when Dangal had neither released nor became the massive hit that it is today. We’re talking about the time when Aamir Khan made a statement about India being an intolerant country. Well, in response to that, Indian citizens protested to boycott the movie. So basically, the response to a comment claiming ‘intolerance’ in our country is… intolerance?
Earlier this year, before the novel coronavirus pandemic had hit the world, India was in a turmoil over the NRC-CAA bill. There were several protests and one of them suffered the extreme consequence that resulted in a mob attack at Jawaharlal Nehru University. During the protest, Deepika visited JNU and extended her solidarity with the students and faculty. As a result, a political party’s leaders demanded a boycott of her movie Chhapaak. Needless to say, the boycott protest went into vain and the movie became a massive success.
Padmaavat is arguably the most controversial movie of Sanjay Leela Bhansali till date. The makers were forced to change the name of the movie from Padmaavati to Padmaavat and SLB was physically harassed at the sets of the movie. In fact, allegedly a bounty was even announced on DP’s head (whaaat?). The most absurd part was that the entire controversy was over a scene that was never even featured in the movie in the first place! Many Hindu and Rajput organisations claimed that Padmaavat had a dream sequence where a Muslim king was imagining getting intimate with a Hindu queen. SLB confirmed that there was no such scene in the movie at all and after much protests and controversies, the movie released and became one of the highest-grossing movies of 2018.
We wonder if Sacred Games would have even released, let alone release a sequel, if I&B ministry had taken control of regularisation of OTT platform in 2018. Sacred Games remains one of the most controversial shows of Netflix India that received several backlashes and protests for bans. The show had explicit nudity, used foul language, and alleged defamation of political figures.
Recently, Ekta Kapoor’s series called XXX Uncensored received several boycott protests because of one of the scenes that allegedly disrespected the sentiments of armed forces. What was actually worrisome was the amount of unfiltered hatred Ekta received on social media. Speaking of the same, Ekta said in an interview, “Content aside, I don’t have any qualms in putting out an apology to the army's wives. We have no problems with them. What irritated me the most was that the cyberbullying started simultaneously when we had already put a stop. It means sex is bad but rape is okay.” We seriously wonder when will these people stop stooping down to such extreme lows and horrible tactics.
TBH, if all the filmmakers and creative heads start to focus on what might and might not hurt the sentiments of people from all backgrounds, demography, ethnicities, religious beliefs, etc., they will hardly be able to make any movie at all! These movies and shows are a source of entertainment and hence, people really need to sit back, relax, and reconsider the boycott trend because, at the end of the day, we always have the option to ‘not see’ what bothers us.
Feature Image: https://www.instagram.com/geonews_india/