Tandav row: All the controversies that have plagued Saif Ali Khan's Amazon show
- As the Supreme Court refused to grant protection to the makers of Tandav, here are all the controversies that have plagued the Amazon Prime Video political drama, created by Ali Abbas Zafar and starring Saif Ali Khan.
The pressure continues to mount for the makers of Tandav, who were not given relief over criminal cases lodged against them in multiple states. The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to grant the makers' request for interim protection.
Multiple FIRs against the series’ director, producer, writer, actors and Amazon India Originals’ head Aparna Purohit, have been filed in six states. The makers of the web series are facing criminal cases for hurting religious sentiments and insulting religion punishable under sections 153A and 295 of the Indian Penal Code. The bench observed, “Your right to freedom of speech is not absolute. You cannot play the role of a character that hurts the sentiments of a community.”
Tandav, a nine-episode political drama on Amazon Prime Video, is created by Ali Abbas Zafar and stars Saif Ali Khan, Dimple Kapadia, Sunil Grover, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, Gauahar Khan, and others. It was released on January 15.
Here's a rundown of all that has transpired in the case:
The contentious scene
At the heart of the controversy is a scene in the first episode of the series. In it, actor Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub plays Lord Shiva in a stage play, and says, "Azaadi, what the...?" In the same scene, the narrator on stage tells Lord Shiva that he needs to do something to improve his popularity on social media as Lord Ram's popularity is gaining. Shiva asks whether he should come up with a new display picture.
Bharatiya Janata Party MP Manoj Kotak wrote to Information and Broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar seeking a ban on the series for allegedly ridiculing Hindu deities. “Different organisations and individuals have complained that Hindu Gods and Goddesses have been ridiculed in Tandav web series. Comments have been passed about them,” Kotak said.
MLA Ram Kadam in Maharashtra had tweeted demanding the removal of the part allegedly mocking Lord Shiva and an apology from actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub. "Tandava will be boycotted until necessary changes are made. #BanTandavNow," he had tweeted. "Just as there is a system of censors for reviewing films and serials, a similar arrangement should be made to review series on the OTT platform. Writing to @PrakashJavdekar ji," he also tweeted in Hindi.
BJP leader Kapil Mishra alleged that Tandav is "anti-Dalit and full of communal hatred against Hindus". He also requested people in the same tweet to write to Prakash Javadekar appealing for a ban on the web series.
Former UP chief minister, Mayawati, wrote in a tweet that in the interest of 'peace and harmony' the objectionable scene should be removed from the series.
Police personnel were spotted stationed outside Saif and Kareena Kapoor's home in Mumbai.
The I&B ministry sought an explanation from Amazon Prime after the controversy broke out. “The ministry has called executives of the video streaming service and decided to seek an explanation from them over the matter,” an official said.
Officials from Amazon Prime Video told news agency PTI that the platform “won’t be responding” to media queries on the matter.
An FIR was registered against Aparna Purohit, creator Ali, producer Himanshu Krishna Mehra, writer Gaurav Solanki and others at the Hazratganj police station of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow deputy commissioner of police (Central) Somen Barma said.
In Madhya Pradesh, an FIR was filed against the makers by a little-known religious outfit.
"Our sincere apologies," Ali wrote in a social media post on Monday, on behalf of the cast and crew. "We have been closely monitoring viewer reactions to the web series Tandav and today during a discussion, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has informed us regarding a large number of grievances and petitions received on various facets of the web series with serious concerns and apprehensions regarding its content hurting the sentiments of the people," the statement read.
It continued, "The web series Tandav is a work of fiction and any resemblance to acts and persons and events is purely coincidental. The cast and crew did not have any intention to 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. The cast and crew of Tandav take cognizance of the concerns expressed by the people and unconditionally apologize if it has unintentionally hurt anybody’s sentiments."
The action taken
Ali issued another statement following the apology, announcing that the cast and crew had decided to 'implement changes'.
“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. The cast & crew of Tandav have made the decision to implement changes to the web series to address the concerns raised towards the same. We thank the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for the guidance & support in the matter. We once again apologize if the series has unintentionally hurt anybody’s sentiments,” read the statement.
Several contentious scenes were altered. The college play scene was removed. Viewers now see Zeeshan's entry on stage as Mahadev amid cheers from the audience and the scene then abruptly shifts to police entering the campus to arrest a student.
Also gone is a conversation depicting prime minister Devki Nandan Singh, played by Tigmanshu Dhulia, insulting Dalit leader Kailash Kumar, enacted by Annup Sonii. There have been other changes in the series as well. A dialogue referencing caste between Soni’s character and Sandhya Mridul’s character Sandhya has been shortened.
The controversy comes at a time when the censorship of streaming platforms is being debated. Outrage was previously expressed upon the release of streaming releases Sacred Games and Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl.
In November, the Union government brought streaming video services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar, and news websites under the ambit of the Information & Broadcasting ministry for regulation, issuing a notification that will now allow the latter to draft rules that could have a far-reaching impact on popular channels of digital content.
Ali confirmed in an interview to Mid-Day that he has completed writing the second season of the show, despite no official confirmation by Amazon. "During the lockdown, I sat in my Dehradun home for five months and kept writing. We have already developed the script for the second season, and hopefully, it will go on floors soon,” he said.
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