Netflix Removes ‘Annapoorani’: Will Media Censorship Affect Bollywood in the Long Run?

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A poster of the Indian film 'Annapoorani,' released in cinemas December 2023 - Credit: IMDb

Indian movie ‘Annapoorani: The Goddess of Food’ has been removed by the streaming platform, Netflix after it received backlash from the Brahmin religious group for the misrepresentation of their beliefs and practises by the movie cast and crew.

The arguments

The producers and director for ‘Annapoorani: The Goddess of Food’ have been lampooned by the Brahmin believers -Hindu vegetarian believers- for allowing the lead character who is Brahmin in the movie to eat meat.

The movie premiered in Indian cinemas on December 1 and was released on Netflix on December 29, 2023. However, barely two weeks later, ‘Annapoorani: The Goddess of Food’ has vanished from the platform.

A Netflix spokesperson on Tuesday, confirmed to CNN that “We removed this film at the request of the licensor.”

Several far-right Hindu groups have filed a First Information Report which seeks thorough investigations from the police on the movie’s crew and cast. This is just one of many times religious agitations in India have made the media ‘cower’.

There were protests from Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) at the office of Netflix in Mumbai to withdraw the movie from the platforms on Wednesday, January 10. This was disclosed by VHP spokesperson Shriraj Nair through a post on X, (formerly Twitter). The group insisted that the daughter of a Hindu priest eating meat in a movie would “hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus and Brahmins of India.”

“This film … is intentionally released to hurt Hindu sentiments,” Ramesh Solanki, the head of Hindu IT Cell, wrote on X. Adding that he had already filed a report with Mumbai police citing several scenes in the movie he believes are disrespectful to the Hindu faith.

Streaming giants like Amazon, Netflix and Disney have been the centre of public backlash and religious debates in India over the years. A 2021 Amazon series, ‘Tandav’ faced legal sanctions when Hindus complained that there was a scene that offended them. Amazon subsequently apologised for allowing such scenes.

Media Partners Asia projects that India’s movie industry will grow by $7 billion by 2027 with the help of Amazon and Netflix which are popular in the country. Can this money be realised in due time when streaming platforms eventually let go of Indian movies because they don’t know who they would offend in the process?

The facts

‘Annapoorani: The Goddess of Food’ is centred on a girl from a Brahmin home who wants to become the best chef in India at all costs. The fear of a religious vegetarian eating meat triggered her family to stop her from achieving her dreams. It was produced by Jatin Sethi and R. Ravindran as well as directed by Nilesh Krishnaa. The movie quickly received criticism from the country on its first day of release, gradually becoming the worst performed at the Box Office.

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