Annapoorani: Netflix removes Nayanthara film after backlash from Hindu groups

  • By Meryl Sebastian
  • BBC News, Kochi

image source, Zee Studios

image description,

In Annapoorani, Tamil star Nayanthara plays a Brahmin woman who wants to become a chef

An Indian film that received backlash for “hurting Hindu religious sentiments” has been removed from Netflix days after it began streaming.

Netflix said the Tamil-language film “Annapoorani: The Goddess of Food” was removed at the “request of its licensor.”

In the film, actor Nayanthara plays a Hindu Brahmin who wants to become a chef.

She is shown to go against her family's religious beliefs, eating meat and learning to cook it.

Many Brahmins do not eat meat in accordance with strict caste rules.

Members of hardline Hindu organizations had objected to this and other scenes in the film, including one in which the actress is shown saying namaz, or Muslim prayers, before cooking biriyani.

Some Hindus were also outraged by a scene in which a Muslim character said the Hindu god Ram ate meat.

The producers of the film have not yet officially commented on the matter.

A police case has also been filed in the state of Madhya Pradesh against Nayanthara and two other people associated with the film.

Supporters of hardline Hindu groups have accused many films and shows of insulting religious sentiments in recent years. In 2021, the cast and crew of Amazon Prime show Tandav apologized after they were accused of mocking Hindu gods.

Annapoorani released in theaters on December 1 and received mixed reviews from critics. The film was praised for showing how a woman from an Orthodox family follows her dreams, but some called it “an all-you-can-eat buffet of undercooked subplots.”

It was approved by India's Central Film Certification Board – known as the Censor Board – which screens films for public screening.

But the controversy began weeks later when people watched the film on Netflix and began streaming it on December 29th.

Last week, a man named Ramesh Solanki filed a police report in Mumbai complaining against several scenes – a case has not yet been registered there. Mr Solanki describes himself on X (formerly Twitter) as a “proud Hindu-Indian nationalist”.

Reuters reported that members of the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) shouted slogans outside Netflix's offices in Mumbai.

On Thursday, Mr Solanki and a VHP spokesperson submitted a letter of apology from Zee Entertainment Enterprises – the parent company of Zee Studios, which co-produced Annapoorani.

“As co-producers of the film, we have no intention of hurting the religious sentiments of the Hindu and Brahmin community,” the letter said.

It also said producers would address concerns about the film and work with Netflix to remove the film from its platform “pending editing.”

Zee did not respond to the BBC's email seeking comment.

While some said they were happy that the film was removed from Netflix, others expressed their dismay. Actress Parvathy Thiruvothu said this would set a “dangerous precedent”.

Additional reporting by Nikhila Henry in Delhi

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