A still from Amazon Prime's Tandav

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New Delhi/Lucknow (PTI): Faced with FIRs, the fear of arrest and loud calls for a boycott for its alleged depiction of Hindu deities, the cast and crew of Amazon Prime Video’s starry political saga Tandav on Monday issued an unconditional apology if their fictional show had unintentionally hurt sentiments.

A day after the Information and Broadcasting Ministry sought an explanation from Amazon Prime Video and BJP MP Manoj Kotak wrote to minister Prakash Javadekar, trouble escalated for the Ali Abbas Zafar directed thriller with an FIR against its makers in Lucknow and several politicians and others adding their voice to the ban Tandav chorus.

As security was stepped up outside the offices of its star Saif Ali Khan and Amazon Prime in Mumbai, a four-member team of the Uttar Pradesh police left for the city and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s media advisor Shalabh Mani Tripathi said the makers will have to “pay a price for hurting religious sentiments” by depicting Hindu gods in an objectionable manner.

“UP Police has left for Mumbai, that too in a car. There are strong sections in the FIR. Remain prepared, (you) will have to pay a price for hurting religious sentiments,” Tripathi said in his tweet in which he tagged director Zafar, producer Himanshu Krishna Mehra, writer Gaurav Solanki and actors Saif Ali Khan and Zeeshan Ayyub.

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At the end of a tense day that saw debate escalate around the show, which balances intrigue in Delhi’s corridors of power and touches on current issues such as student unrest and farmer protests, the cast and crew of Tandav, which literally translates to ‘dance of destruction’, issued a statement in a bid to defuse the situation.

It said the Information and Broadcasting ministry had informed them about the 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 .

Stating that their show is a work of fiction, the team said they 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,” it said.

Two FIRs were filed in Uttar Pradesh against the show, which also stars Dimple Kapadia and Tigmanshu Dhulia. The first was lodged by senior sub inspector Amarnath Yadav of the Hazratganj police station in Lucknow after seeing objectionable material in the web series , said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) Somen Burma.

It was filed late Sunday night against Amazon’s India head of original content Aparna Purohit, director Abbas, producer Mehra, writer Solanki, and an unknown person.

The raft of cases filed against them include Indian Penal Code sections relating to “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language”, “injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class” and “forgery for purpose of harming reputation” along with sections of the IT Act.

A second was filed in Shahjahanpur on Monday by BJP MLA Vikram Veer Singh against the director, Saif Khan and Ayyub. The MLA alleged the web series hurt the sentiments of 100 crore Indians as it ridiculed Lord Bholenath, another name for Shiva. Superintendent of Police S Anand said the FIR was lodged under relevant sections of the IPC and a probe was on.

At the centre of the row is a scene with Ayyub, in the role of college student Shiva, playing the Hindu god Mahadev (also a name for Shiva) in a theatre production. Another student playing Narad wonders about the increasing followers of lord Ram on social media.

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In Madhya Pradesh, minister Vishvas Sarang and Protem Speaker Rameshwar Sharma appealed to Javadekar to ban the series, in tandem with the tempo on social media.

It is “very unfortunate” that deities of a majority community are ridiculed like this, Sarang told PTI.

“A censor board is needed for the OTT segment as it is increasingly becoming popular. I have written a letter to the information and broadcasting minister demanding a ban on this series, Sarang said.

The minister said he has also mailed a letter to the CEO of Amazon Prime to immediately withdraw the web series.

“There should be a law in the country to stop the efforts to mock Hindu deities on such OTT platforms, added Sharma.

In Maharashtra, BJP legislator Ram Kadam took up the chorus.

In a tweet in the morning, Kadam noted that there had been no apology even though 24 hours had lapsed.

I urge all Hindus to boycott Amazon’s products, be it their shopping site or content platform, he said.

Taking to Twitter, BSP chief Mayawati also called for removing the “objectionable content”.

Protests are being registered against some scenes hurting the religious and ethnic sentiments in the Tandav web series, in respect of which it would be appropriate to remove whatever is objectionable so that the atmosphere of peace, harmony and mutual brotherhood in the country is not spoiled anywhere, she said.

Seers in Haridwar condemned the show too.

“Hindu deities have been insulted in Tandav. The sant samaj will not tolerate it,” said Shri Mahant Narendra Giri, president of Akhara Parishad, a representative body of saints and seers.

Though most mainstream filmmakers and actors maintained a studied silence on the controversy, Scam 1992 director Hansal Mehta termed it an “unnecessary controversy” and said the entertainment media was being used to divert attention and distract the people.

“And don’t let all this Tandav outrage distract you. The always-ready-to-suck-up Bollywood is the best way to divert your attention from serious issues, he said.

The nine-episode Tandav, which premiered on Friday, is only the latest in a long line of showbiz offerings to attract controversy for one reason or another.

Netflix show A Suitable Boy , based on Vikram Seth’s bestselling novel, for instance, attracted the ire of the rightwing for a scene showing a Muslim man and a Hindu girl kissing in the backdrop of a temple. Before that was Amazon’s Pataal Lok that got into trouble for its depiction of communal issues, and Leila , which was called “anti Hindu” for depicting the dystopian future of Aryavarta where purity of blood is enforced.

And there have been several films too, including Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Padmavaat , which had to face several battles before they were screened.

The government recently brought OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ Hotstar, besides other online news and current affairs content, under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, giving it powers to regulate policies and rules for the digital space.

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