Explained: Amazon Prime's Web Series 'Tandav' Faces Legal Trouble

Following massive outrage, the makers of the show issued an apology for unintentionally hurting religious sentiments.

Days within its release, the multi starrer web series Tandav has gained attention for all the wrong reasons. Streaming on Amazon Prime, the series with Saif Ali Khan and Dimple Kapadia in the lead, has attracted two police complaints, one legal notice and a complaint filed with the Information and Broadcasting ministry - for allegedly insulting Hindu deities and hurting Hindu sentiments.

The complainants spread across the country are all leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a police constable from Uttar Pradesh seemingly supported by the Uttar Pradesh government. The complaints have been filed against the makers of the show and the streaming site Amazon Prime.

On Monday, the show creator Ali Abbas Zafar tweeted apologised on behalf of Tandav's cast and crew, saying they did not intend to offend anyone or insult any religion and political party. The apology mentioned that the I&B ministry in a discussion informed them "regarding a large number of grievances and petitions" received about the show.


Tandav, a political drama revolves around dynasty politics and the fight for power from different stakeholders. Saif Ali Khan plays the lead as the son of a sitting prime minister, with a strong aspiration to rule the country. Uncannily similar to India's real life political characters, Tandav even has student politics in the form of VNU, a take on Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and a budding student leader played by Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, who makes a reluctant entry into the world of politics. The show has a well known cast ranging from Dimple Kapadia, Kumud Misra, Tigmanshu Dhulia and Sunil Grover playing other important roles.

The show scattered with cliches also has doses of characters potraying Hindu gods in a play and dialogues that has caused outrage from many right wing leaders including the Uttar Pradesh police. Slogans of Azaadi popularised by real life student political leaders like Kanhaiya Singh and Umar Khalid also find generous mention across several episodes in the show.


The first objection was raised by two BJP leaders from Mumbai - Ram Kadam and Manoj Kotak who filed a police complaint and wrote to the I&B Ministry respectively.

Kotak, a BJP MP from Ghatkopar West in Mumbai alleged that the show has scenes where the Hindu deity Shiva is ridiculed and asked for the same to be removed from the show.

In his letter to Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister, I&B, Kotak wrote, "it seems that makers of Tandav have deliberately mocked Hindu gods and disrespected Hindu religious sentiments", further asking the Ministry to monitor and regulate the content on Over The Top (OTT) media platforms claiming, they are taking undue advantage being free from all censoring authority. He added, "Programmes telecast on OTT platform is full of sex, violence, drugs, abuse, hate and vulgarity. Sometimes they also hurt the sentiments of Hindu and religious sentiments"

Going a step further, BJP MLA Kadam submitted a complaint at Ghatkopar police station in Mumbai against the makers of the show, Ali Abbas Zafar, producer Himanshu Krishna Mehra, writer Gaurav Solanki and the actors. Kadam alleging that the show mocked Hindu deities, demanded the deletion of the scene where Ayyub plays Shiva, demanded that the cast be investigated and charged under Sec 295A (Deliberate insulting of religious beliefs) of the IPC, Section 67A of IT Act and sections of the Atrocities Act.

Angered by Amazon's silence and no comment on the anger pouring over its show, Kadam urged people to refrain from watching Amazon Prime Video and also not to buy products from the company's shopping site.

The next complaint came from Uttar Pradesh, where Hazratganj police in Lucknow filed an FIR against the director and writer of the show and also Amazon Prime Video's India head of original content, Aparna Purohit.

The FIR alleges that the show promotes enmity between groups on grounds of religion, defiles a place of worship thereby insulting the religion, makes statements that may cause alarm to people leading to them commit an offence against the State and commits forgery to harm reputation. The FIR was filed by a police official posted at Hazratganj police station and alleges that the religious sentiments were hurt by depicting Hindu deities in an inappropriate manner including mouthing "substandard dialogues". The FIR also talks about the fight in the show about who occupies the Prime Minister's position and alleges that the makers, have potrayed the "prestigious position of India's prime minister in a bad light." It also claims the show insults not just the Hindu religion but women, lower castes and promotes obscenity.

Former chief minister of UP, Mayawati also raised objection to the show and asked for a removal of the objectionable scenes claiming the makers should not "spoil the environment".

BJP leader Kapil Mishra who has been repeatedly called out for making statements of a communal nature targeting Muslims claimed the show has "hidden political vendetta" targeting the centre and the UP government and insults the legal fraternity. Mishra issued a legal notice to Amazon Prime Video and asked that they take down the show from its site and and apologise to the public.


The Information and Broadcasting Ministry on Sunday sought an explanation from streaming platform Amazon Prime Video on the issue. Wire agency PTI quoted a source from the Ministry confirming the development and said that the ministry has sought an explanation from Amazon regarding Tandav.

Additionally, the Uttar Pradesh government too seems to have got involved in demanding action against the show with Shalabh Mani Tripathi, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's media advisor calling the show "cheap" and alleging that it spread hate. Tripathi shared the copy of the FIR filed at Hazratganj police station against the show saying, "There is no tolerance for playing with people's sentiments in Yogi Adityanath's Uttar Pradesh...Prepare for arrest."

Tripathi has in the past shared misinformation about the ongoing farmers' protest. Read here


This is not the first time online platform have created controversy over shows streamed on their site. Recently, Netflix faced wrath after A Suitable Boy released on site showed a Hindu woman being kissed by a Muslim man in a temple premises. The right wing took to trending #BoycottNetflix with BJP leaders from Madhya Pradesh lodging police complaints against the show and Netflix for showing "objectionable content". Dr Narottam Mishra, Home Minister, Madhya Pradesh said the show
hurt the feelings of a particular religion.

Previously, Netflix's docuseries 'Bad Boys Billionaires: India' about scams and allegations against Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi raised heckles and two lower courts in Bihar and Hyderabad restrained the OTT platform from streaming the same. The platform failed to get relief from the Supreme Court regarding the stay. The Defence Ministry sought an injunction against Netflix original Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl for allegedly portraying the Air Force in a negative light. Shows like Leila, Sacred Games have also come under fire with political parties demanding a ban for showing incorrect and sensitive content.

Also Read:Takedowns, Bans, Self-Regulation: Challenges To Online Content In India

Editor's Note: The article earlier said Manoj Kotak is a BJP MLA instead of BJP MP. The error is regretted.

Updated On: 2021-01-19T13:08:01+05:30
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