Netflix Removes Indian Film Amid Backlash from Hindu Groups: Annapoorani Sparks Controversy

NEW DELHI, India – In a recent development, Netflix has taken down an Indian film from its platform following backlash from right-wing Hindu groups. This incident is just one among several controversies in India’s entertainment industry, where religious pressure has influenced content decisions.

The film in question, titled ‘Annapoorani: the Goddess of Food,’ revolves around a young woman’s pursuit of becoming the best chef in India. The movie portrays her defiance of her family and the Brahmins, the highest caste in Hinduism known for their vegetarianism, as she cooks and consumes meat.

Upon its release on Netflix on December 29, the film quickly became the platform’s most popular movie in India, according to Zee Entertainment, the production studio. However, less than two weeks later, the movie disappeared from Netflix, including its international platforms.

Confirming the removal of the film, a spokesperson for Netflix stated that it was done at the request of the licensor. CNN reached out to Zee Entertainment and the film’s director for comment but did not receive a response.

The release of ‘Annapoorani’ faced severe criticism from far-right Hindu groups, prompting some to file a First Information Report against the film’s director, producer, and actors. The FIR accuses them of “outraging religious feelings” and “promoting enmity between different groups.”

India has strict anti-hate speech laws in place to maintain peaceful relations between various communities in a country scarred by historical communal and inter-religious violence. However, in recent years, Hindu nationalist groups have effectively used these laws to demand the removal of content they perceive as offensive.

Ramesh N Solanki, the founder and president of the Hindu IT Cell, a group committed to taking legal action against content that “defames” Hinduism, filed a complaint against ‘Annapoorani,’ alleging that it intentionally hurts Hindu sentiments. One of the main reasons cited was the film’s depiction of a Brahmin woman consuming meat and claiming that even the revered Lord Ram would do the same.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), another prominent group, also sent letters of complaint to Netflix and Zee Entertainment, accusing the movie of hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus and Brahmins in India. VHP claimed that Zee Entertainment apologized for the film and pledged to remove it from Netflix until it is edited.

The incident surrounding ‘Annapoorani’ is not an isolated case. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have faced similar controversies in India due to their portrayal of inter-religious relationships and depictions of Hindu deities.

These disputes have raised concerns among filmmakers and content creators about censorship and press freedom in India. The government’s introduction of new regulations in 2020 has further intensified these fears, as the vaguely worded rules provide grounds for complaints and outrage on a wide range of topics.

India remains a significant market for Netflix, with the company investing vast sums of money in the country in recent years. However, navigating India’s media landscape, with its deepening religious divisions, has proven to be a challenging task for streaming platforms.

In conclusion, the removal of ‘Annapoorani’ from Netflix reflects the influence of religious pressure groups in India’s entertainment industry. This incident highlights the ongoing debates surrounding censorship and artistic freedom, as filmmakers strive to navigate the delicate balance between creative expression and cultural sensitivities.